THURSDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Americans' heart health is
in a woeful state, says this year's report card from the American
And it's largely because people just aren't taking care of
In the past three or so decades, women have upped their calorie
consumption by 22 percent and men by 10 percent, with carbohydrates
and sugar-sweetened beverages both major sources of unneeded
The inevitable result is that more than two-thirds of U.S.
adults and about one-third of children are over the ideal body
weight, the extra layers of fat putting a major strain on
The trend is particularly concerning in children. Today, about
20 percent of U.S. kids are obese, compared with just 4 percent 30
Neither adults nor children are exercising enough and about 21
percent of men and 18 percent of women still smoke. About one-fifth
of high school students also have taken up the smoking habit.
"This is very disturbing but not at all surprising," said Dr. Robert Michler, co-director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for Heart and Vascular Care in New York City. "Heart disease is this nation's number-one killer and the continued growth of our nation's waistline will deliver serious consequences."
The authors of the report, which appears online Dec. 15 in the
Circulation, looked at seven markers of cardiovascular health: smoking, weight, exercise, diet, cholesterol, blood pressure and fasting blood sugar levels, as well as whether or not a person had a diagnosis of heart disease.
Using those criteria, 94 percent of U.S. adults -- that's almost
everyone -- have at least one risk factor for heart disease. For
example, one-third of U.S. adults have high blood pressure while 15
percent have high cholesterol.
And children aren't far behind.
The only good news?
The death rate from cardiovascular disease fell almost 31
percent in the last decade, although it still accounts for one in
three deaths each year.
Stroke rates also dropped nearly 35 percent, making it now the
fourth leading cause of death rather than the third.
But gains are largely due to better treatments rather than
"The population overall is not taking care of themselves. When you leave it to the individual, the individual doesn't behave well," said Dr. Jacob Shani, chair of the Maimonides Cardiac Institute in New York City.
"But when the individual actually comes to the cardiologist or to the doctor, the news is very good," Shani added. "We decrease the mortality; people live longer after a heart attack. We do a lot of things now we couldn't do in the past."
Advances include better surgical techniques as well as
cholesterol-lowering statins, sometimes referred to as the "wonder
Such advances will continue to happen but "we need to get our
arms around this," Michler said. "Lifestyle changes will have a
major impact on this problem if we take it seriously. . . People
need to become more active and they need to be very concerned about
everything they put in their mouth."
Visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to
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