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More Americans Are at Risk for Heart Attack and Stroke

A U.S. study suggests that most adults in the U.S. have poor cardiovascular health, creating a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes today than there was a true generation ago.

Researchers examined nationally representative survey data that had been accumulated from 1988 to 2014 from U.S. adults 25 and older who had no previous history of cardiovascular disease. Even the youngest in the study, ranging in age from 25 to 44, the proportion of people with optimal heart health had never exceeded 40 percent of whites, 25 percent of Mexican-Americans and 15 percent of African-Americans.

“The cardiovascular health of the U.S. started out low and has fallen,” said Dr. Arleen Brown of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead author of the study.

The study included about 21,000 white people, 10,400 African-Americans, 4,000 Mexican-Americans born in the U.S. and 5,500 Mexican-Americans born elsewhere.

The findings of this study offer evidence that Americans definitely have a lot of room to improve their heart health.

All of the risk factors researchers examined for heart disease are considered modifiable since they are able to be changed with interventions such as medication or lifestyle changes.

Those with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, high blood sugar, obesity, inactivity, smoking and a diet that was limited in fruits, vegetables and whole grains received poor heart health scores. Those without most of these issues have the potential to achieve “optimal” heart health scores.

Generally, there has been a decline in Americans with healthy eating and exercise habits who also had an ideal weight along with well controlled blood sugar.

Some of the factors that contribute to poor heart health for many Americans may also be impossible to control—such as having a family history of heart disease or a genetic predisposition, racial segregation, unemployment or lack of health insurance.

Although one can control some contributing factors in regards to their heart health such as poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, excess weight, drinking too much alcohol and getting inadequate sleep.

“The good news is that all actions begin with lifestyle and behavioral changes,” said Dr. George Mensah, researcher at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. “Safe and effective medications are available when lifestyle an behavioral changes alone aren’t enough.”


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