Heart health is becoming an increasingly rare commodity. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), only 1 out of every 1,900 people who were recently evaluated for heart health met the definition of ideal cardiovascular health:
Less than 10 percent of people surveyed met five or more criteria for heart health. Even more disturbing, blacks had 82 percent lower odds than whites of meeting five ore more criteria.
"This tells us that the current prevalence of heart health is extremely
low, and that we have a great challenge ahead of us to attain the AHA's
aim of a 20 percent improvement in cardiovascular health rates by 2020,"
says Steven Reis, associate vice chancellor for clinical research at
the University of Pittsburgh.
"Many of our study participants were overweight or obese, and that likely had a powerful influence on the other behaviors and factors," he notes.
"Our next step is to analyze additional data to confirm this and, based on the results, try to develop a multifaceted approach to improve health. That could include identifying predictors of success or failure at adhering to the guidelines."
The evaluation is based on seven factors: nonsmoking, a body mass index less than 25, goal-level physical activity, healthy diet, untreated cholesterol below 200, blood pressure below 120/80, and fasting blood sugar below 100. The AHA has also published a list of health measures that can help you keep your heart at optimum health:
Never smoked or quit more than a year ago.
A healthy body mass index (BMI), an estimate of body fat determined by a formula using weight and height.
Physical activity, and the more the better. The new measure says at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise is necessary for ideal health, or 75 minutes weekly of vigorous physical activity.
Blood pressure below 120/80.
Fasting blood glucose less than 100 milligrams/deciliter, a fasting measure of blood sugar level.
Total cholesterol of less than 200 milligrams/deciliter.
Eating a healthy diet. Four to five of the key components of a healthy diet are followed. For a 2,000-calorie diet, these include:
At least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day
At least two 3.5 oz. servings of fish per week, preferably oily fish
At least three 1-ounce servings of fiber-rich whole grains per day
Limiting sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams a day
Drinking no more than 36 ounces weekly of sugar-sweetened beverages
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