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Heart Disease, Stroke Deaths Down

Still, Too Many Americans at High Risk for Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, Researchers Say

Lifestyle Behaviors Contribute to Cardiovascular Disease Burden

Roger and her team found that, overall, too many Americans live with major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke, such as elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and being overweight and inactive. Among their findings:

  • More than two-thirds of the U.S. adult population is either clinically overweight or obese. This trend in adulthood obesity may not change given that during the past 30 years, obesity increased from 4% to 20% among children aged 6 to 11.
  • More than a third of Americans aged 20 and older have high blood pressure; 80% are aware of their condition, but less than half have their condition under control.
  • Smoking is also a major risk factor; 23.1% of adult men and 18.1% of adult women smoke cigarettes. And 19.5% of high school students say they use tobacco.
  • 15% of adults 20 and older have total serum cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher. The recommend level is 200 mg/dL or lower.
  • 8% of the U.S. adult population have diabetes; 36.8% have prediabetes, in which their blood sugar levels are too high, though not high enough to meet the definition of diabetes.
  • Death rates from cardiovascular disease remain significantly higher for black males, at 405.9 per 100,000 compared with 286.1 per 100,000 for black females, 294 per 100,000 for white males, and 205.7 per 100,000 for white females.

Over the next decade, the American Heart Association is focused on reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20%.

“Our baseline data related to the 2020 goal in the new update indicate the need for substantial progress in order to meet those goals in the next decade,” Roger says. “To achieve improvements in cardiovascular health, all segments of the population will need to focus on improved cardiovascular health behaviors, particularly with regard to diet and weight, as well as increasing physical activity and further reducing the prevalence of smoking.”

The report, for the first time, includes data about family history and genetics. Having a sibling who has heart disease, or a parent who has experienced a heart attack at an early age, essentially doubles one’s risk of developing heart disease. “The role of genetic factors in the risk of cardiovascular disease will likely be a growing part of the report in the future,” Roger says.

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