Virtually all Americans either have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, are overweight, smoke or exercise too little, the team led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
"Unfortunately, the limited strides that were made toward this goal during the 1970s and 1980s were eroded by the increases in excess weight, diabetes and hypertension during more recent decades," the CDC's Dr. Earl Ford, who led the study, said in a statement.
Ford's team looked at four national studies covering tens of thousands of Americans aged 25 to 74.
Only 10 percent had low risk scores in all five categories, they reported in the journal Circulation.
"Until the early 90s, we were moving in a positive direction, but then it took a turn and we're headed in a negative direction," said Ford.
"When you look at the individual factors, tobacco use is still headed in the right direction and so are cholesterol levels, although that has leveled off. The problem is that blood pressure, BMI (body mass index, a measure of obesity) and diabetes are all headed in the wrong direction."
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States and many other countries.
(Reuters September 14, 2009)
What are the major risk factors you can modify, treat or control by changing your lifestyle or taking medicine?
* Tobacco smoke — Smokers' risk of developing coronary heart disease is 2–4 times that of nonsmokers. Cigarette smoking is a powerful independent risk factor for sudden cardiac death in patients with coronary heart disease; smokers have about twice the risk of nonsmokers. Cigarette smoking also acts with other risk factors to greatly increase the risk for coronary heart disease. People who smoke cigars or pipes seem to have a higher risk of death from coronary heart disease (and possibly stroke) but their risk isn't as great as cigarette smokers'. Exposure to other people's smoke increases the risk of heart disease even for nonsmokers.
* High blood cholesterol — As blood cholesterol rises, so does risk of coronary heart disease. When other risk factors (such as high blood pressure and tobacco smoke) are present, this risk increases even more. A person's cholesterol level is also affected by age, sex, heredity and diet.
* High blood pressure — High blood pressure increases the heart's workload, causing the heart to thicken and become stiffer. It also increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases several times.
* Physical inactivity — An inactive lifestyle is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity helps prevent heart and blood vessel disease. The more vigorous the activity, the greater your benefits. However, even moderate-intensity activities help if done regularly and long term. Physical activity can help control blood cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, as well as help lower blood pressure in some people.
* Obesity and overweight — People who have excess body fat — especially if a lot of it is at the waist — are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors. Excess weight increases the heart's work. It also raises blood pressure and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. It can also make diabetes more likely to develop. Many obese and overweight people may have difficulty losing weight. But by losing even as few as 10 pounds, you can lower your heart disease risk.
* Diabetes mellitus — Diabetes seriously increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Even when glucose (blood sugar) levels are under control, diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, but the risks are even greater if blood sugar is not well controlled. About three-quarters of people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. If you have diabetes, it's extremely important to work with your healthcare provider to manage it and control any other risk factors you can.
What other factors contribute to heart disease risk?
* Individual response to stress may be a contributing factor. Some scientists have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person's life, their health behaviors and socioeconomic status. These factors may affect established risk factors. For example, people under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would.
* Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, cause heart failure and lead to stroke. It can contribute to high triglycerides, cancer and other diseases, and produce irregular heartbeats. It contributes to obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents.
The risk of heart disease in people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol (an average of one drink for women or two drinks for men per day) is lower than in nondrinkers. One drink is defined as 1-1/2 fluid ounces (fl oz) of 80-proof spirits (such as bourbon, Scotch, vodka, gin, etc.), 1 fl oz of 100-proof spirits, 4 fl oz of wine or 12 fl oz of beer. It's not recommended that nondrinkers start using alcohol or that drinkers increase the amount they drink.
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