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Thursday 20th June 2019

Americans ignoring heart health advice

19th March 2012

The American Heart Association says that less than 2% of the US population is taking its advice when it comes to maintainng heart health.


The seven pointers for heart health could dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease, but very few genuinely follow them.

In fact, the number of people eating healthily, keeping up their physical activity levels and maintaining normal blood pressure has actually fallen.

The percentage of people who actually follow all seven of the recommendations fell in the period from 2005-2010 to 1.2%, compared with 2% in the years from 1988-1994.

The Association advises people not to smoke, to stay physically active, to keep their blood pressure under 120/80 and their fasting blood-glucose levels below 100.

They also suggest keep total cholesterol levels below 200 and maintaining a healthy weight and following a healthy diet.

If people do succeed in following their advice, the result could be a 76% lower risk of heart-related death, and a 51% lower death risk from any cause, the organization says.

Writing in the online edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers reported on the habits of a group of nearly 45,000 adults, as reported in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988-2010.

The more heart-healthy goals the participants were able to meet, the lower their risk of heart disease, death, but also cancer.

Overall, younger people, white people and the highly educated were more likely to meet the AHA's goals.

But unhealthy behaviours were on the rise across the general population, they found.

The numbers who ate a healthy diet fell over the period studied, while people's weight and blood sugar levels rose overall.

While the number of smokers fell from 28% in the earlier period to 23% in 2005-2010, the proportion of people with high blood pressure that remained untreated, and high blood sugar levels, rose.

Meanwhile, the number of people did enough physical activity to maintain health rose from 41% to 45% during the same period.

More worryingly, the number of people who did no activity at all rose twofold from 16% to 32%.

The results show that more public health policies are needed to address the question of unhealthy lifestyles, experts said.

Donald M. Lloyd-Jones of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said the majority of heart attacks and strokes occurred among people with only mildly elevated risk factors, suggesting that there was little room for people to ignore the health advice.

He called in an editorial for policies that would "tilt the playing field" toward healthier choices, so more people would end up in the subset of "ideal" behaviours.

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