Only one in five people in the US have ideal heart health 

Only one in five people in the US have ideal heart health 
© iStock/DjelicS

A new study by the American Heart Association finds that only one in five people in the US have ideal heart health.

The new research illuminates that around 80% of people in the United States have less than ideal heart health, based on the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8TM checklist tool. The measurable metrics are included in the Association’s My Life Check tool to determine a cardiovascular health score based on eight essential factors for ideal heart health. These factors are diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep duration, body mass index, blood lipids, blood glucose and blood pressure.

The findings are published in Circulation.

Life’s Essential 8TM checklist

The Life Essential 8TM tool was recently updated to reflect sleep health as a factor that influences heart health.

In adults, overall heart health is calculated by adding all the scores for each of the eight metrics together and then dividing it by eight. This provides a score ranging from 0-100 that indicates whether you have ideal heart health. A score below 50 indicates low cardiovascular health, 50-79 is moderate heart health and anything over 80 is ideal heart health.

The researchers from the American Heart Association employed data collated from the tool that amassed over 23,400 US adults and children free from cardiovascular disease. They evaluated US National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys in 2013-2018 that included more than 13,500 adults (aged 20-79 years) and nearly 9,900 children (aged two to 19 years).

Only 0.45% of adults have peak ideal heart health

The researcher’s analysis discovered:

  • The average heart health score based on Life’s Essential 8TM was 64.7 for US adults and 65.5 for children. The children’s average considered age-based modifications for metrics in diet, physical activity and BMI.
  • Only 0.45% of adults scored 100 on Life’s Essential 8TM.
  • 19.6% of US adults had ideal heart health, 62.5% had moderate, and 17.9% had low.
  • Adult women showcased a higher average cardiovascular health score of 67, compared to 62.5 in men.
  • Overall, the adults scored lowest in diet, physical activity, and BMI.
  • Cardiovascular health scores were generally lower at older ages.
  • Individuals identifying as Non-Hispanic Asian Americans have a higher average ideal heart health score than other racial/ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic White individuals had the second-highest average heart health score, followed by Hispanic (other than Mexican), Mexican, and non-Hispanic black individuals.
  • Children’s diet scores were low, at an average of 40.6.
  • Adult sociodemographic groups varied notably in heart health scores for diet, nicotine exposure, blood glucose and blood pressure.

“These data represent the first look at the cardiovascular health of the US population using the AHA’s new Life’s Essential 8™ scoring algorithm,” said Donald M Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, FAHA, who led the study and is president of the American Heart Association, and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “Overall, the cardiovascular health of the US population is suboptimal, and we see important differences across age and sociodemographic groups. Analyses like this can help policymakers, communities, clinicians, and the public to understand the opportunities to intervene to improve and maintain optimal cardiovascular health across the life course.” Lloyd-Jones is also the Eileen M. Foell Professor of Heart Research and professor of preventive medicine, medicine and paediatrics at Northwestern.


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