Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, the paper reveals that the progress in heart health that had been made during the 1970s and 1980s has now been reversed.
According to the authors, only 7.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 74 were in the low risk category in 1999-2004. The figure for adults rated low risk was 10.5 percent in 1988-94.
The study, Trends in the Prevalence of Low Risk Factor Burden for Cardiovascular Disease Among United States Adults, created a low-risk index based on the following five factors:
• Not currently smoking
• Total cholesterol below 200 (mg/dL) and not using cholesterol-lowering drugs
• Blood pressure (systolic/diastolic) below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) without using blood pressure-lowering medication
• Body mass index (BMI) less than 25 kg/m2
• Never diagnosed with diabetes
Adults at low risk of heart disease are those unlikely to develop cardiovascular disease or the associated risk factors. The researchers said that from a preventative health point of view, it was disappointing that less than 10 percent of Americans are meeting all the low-risk factors.
"Our analysis suggests that achieving low risk status for most US adults remains a distant and challenging goal. Unfortunately, the limited strides that were made towards this goal during the 1970s and 1980s were eroded by the increases in excess weight, diabetes and hypertension during more recent decades," said lead author Earl Ford of the US Public Health Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga.
The report found that while fewer adults are smoking, an increasing proportion are developing high blood pressure or diabetes or becoming overweight or obese.
Men and women were equally prevalent in the low risk group while whites had a significantly higher prevalence of low risk factor burden than blacks, and a larger percentage of whites were considered low risk than Mexican Americans.
Foods for heart health
These latest figures confirm once more that heart health is a top concern and priority for the US population.
Foods, beverages and dietary supplements designed to help reduce the risk for developing heart disease are now a leading functional food category in the country.
Figures provided to NutraIngredients-USA.com by market researcher Mintel reveal that heart health was the most popular claim on new launches of functional food products between 2005 and 2009.
This compares to the other 23 of the total 24 markets tracked, where digestive health came out on top.
Of 1,408 new functional foods and beverages laucnhed in US in the perios, 426 made claims of heart health benefits, compared to 364 for digestive health.
Source: Trends in the Prevalence of Low Risk Factor Burden for Cardiovascular Disease Among United States Adults
Circulation. 2009 Published online before print September 14, 2009
Authors: Earl S. Ford MD, MPH, Chaoyang Li MD, PhD, Guixiang Zhao MD, PhD, William S. Pearson PhD, and Simon Capewell MD