ORLANDO, Fla. — Although progress has been made in tackling heart disease, the number of people who have ideal cardiovascular (CV) health, as defined by the goals in the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7, has decreased during the last 20 years, according to data presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.
To compound the problem, there have also been increases in the proportions of people having precursors of cardiovascular disease (CVD), as well as in those having been diagnosed with CVD, researchers reported at the meeting.
“The American Heart Association (AHA) identified the 7 health metrics to define the cardiovascular health score. It was important for us to assess the trend in this score during the past couple of decades to gauge whether there has been an improvement in terms of Americans’ cardiovascular health. This is the first study using Framingham Heart Study data, one of the longest running epidemiological studies, to show this trend,” said study investigator Vanessa Xanthakis, PhD, who is an assistant professor of medicine and biostatistics at Boston University School of Medicine.
The 7 health metrics include eating a balanced diet, being active, managing weight, eliminating tobacco smoke, and maintaining ideal levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
In this study, researchers studied the prevalence of the ideal CV health score among 3460 adults (mean age, 55.4 years; 54.7% women), who were measured for these health metrics from 1 to 4 times during 1990 to 2008 as part of the Framingham Heart Study.
Dr. Xanthakis and colleagues found that the proportion of people with an ideal score decreased from 8.5% during the period 1991-1995 to 5.8% during 2005-2008. The drop was due to decreases in the number of people with ideal BMI, blood pressure, glucose, or cholesterol levels.
People whose health scores changed by at least 15%, such as dropping from an ideal status on a health metric to intermediate or poor status, had 1.6-times higher odds of being diagnosed with a precursor of CVD and a 1.2-times higher rate of being diagnosed with CVD, compared with those who kept their health scores high for the majority of the health metrics.
“Even though major focus has been placed on how it is important to lower elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and quit smoking, our study shows that, overall, the cardiovascular health of Americans is not improving. People should know their numbers and speak to their physicians to guide them to move closer to the ideal status of each health metric, such as normal BMI, regular physical activity, and healthy diet,” Dr. Xanthakis said.
AHA spokesperson Gerald Fletcher MD, who is a professor of medicine and cardiovascular disease at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Florida, said this study points out that the American people are not healthy overall, and much greater efforts are needed.
He noted that the study findings are not surprising and significant changes are required to change how Americans eat and exercise, adding that these numbers are significant and show a dangerous trend that needs to be reversed.
“It is a wake-up call, but people don’t want to hear it,” Dr. Fletcher said. “Families can do better than this. We are just too sedentary. We eat too much salt and it leads to high blood pressure. It has to be a family affair. We need to do better and families have to come together.”
- Xanthakis V, Enserro D, Vasan RS. M 2120 – Twenty-year Trends in the AHA Heart Health Score and Impact on Subclinical and Clinical CVD: The Framingham Heart Study. Presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions; November 7-11, 2015; Orlando, FL.
- My Life Check – Life’s Simple 7. American Heart Association website. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/My-Life-Check—Lifes-Simple-7_UCM_471453_Article.jsp#.VkTUQnarSM8. Updated August 10, 2015. Accessed November 11, 2015.
This article originally appeared on The Cardiology Advisor