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1 in 35 in U.S. at High Risk for Heart Disease

Otherwise Healthy Adults Considered at Risk for Heart Disease Within 10 Years

WebMD Health News

May 19, 2004 -- About one in 35 adult Americans is at high risk of developing heart disease, meaning that they have a greater than 20% chance of developing the condition within 10 years. Nearly one in five otherwise healthy American adults have a 10% or higher risk of developing heart disease in the next 10 years, according to the new study.

The results appear in the May 19 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"I hope that these numbers will give clinicians, researchers, health policy analysts, and others a better idea of how coronary heart disease is distributed in the U.S. population," says researcher Earl S. Ford, MD, MPH of the CDC, in a news release.

Estimating Heart Disease Risk

In making their predictions, researchers used data on the prevalence of heart disease risk factors among nearly 14,000 Americans aged 20 to 79 collected by the CDC in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 1994. The survey included information on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, age, body mass index (BMI), smoking, and other risk factors.

For people without existing heart disease or diabetes, researchers found:

  • 4 million (2.9%) fell into the high-risk category with a greater than 20% chance of developing heart disease within 10 years.
  • 23 million (15.5%) were considered intermediate risk with a 10%-20% risk of heart disease.
  • 140 million (81.7%) were low risk with a less than 10% risk of developing heart disease.

The study showed the proportion of adults at high risk for heart disease within 10 years increased with advancing age and was higher among men than women. But this risk varied little with race or ethnicity.

Researchers say these estimates are predictions of future risk based on currently used models and information. But they are not measurements of how many people actually developed heart disease during a 10-year period.

Predictions Should Be Call to Action

In an editorial that accompanies the study, Daniel S. Berman, MD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and Nathan D. Wong, PhD, of the University of California, Irvine, say the study shows that "a large proportion of the U.S. population is at high or intermediate risk."

The editorialists say these predictions should serve as a call to action to identify those people at high risk and better stratify the risk for those in the intermediate range of heart disease risk.

They also say the results show the nation should take further public health and preventive measures to reduce the risk of heart disease across the U.S.

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