Only one in more than 1900 people met the American Heart Association (AHA) definition of ideal cardiovascular health, revealed in a study.
Ideal cardiovascular health is the combination of seven factors: nonsmoking, a body mass index less than 25, goal-level physical activity and healthy diet, untreated cholesterol below 200, blood pressure below 120/80 and fasting blood sugar below 100.
"Of all the people we assessed, only one out of 1,900 could claim ideal heart health," said Steven Reis.University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers conducted the study.
"This tells us that the current prevalence of heart health is extremely low, and that we have a great challenge ahead of us to attain the AHA's aim of a 20 percent improvement in cardiovascular health rates by 2020."
The researchers evaluated 1,933 people ages 45 to 75 in Allegheny County with surveys, physical exams and blood tests.
Less than 10 percent met five or more criteria; 2 percent met the four heart-healthy behaviors; and 1.4 percent met all three heart-healthy factors. After adjustment for age, sex and income level, blacks had 82 percent lower odds than whites of meeting five or more criteria.
According to Reis, heart health can be attained by change at the individual level, the social and physical environment, policy and access to care.
"Many of our study participants were overweight or obese, and that likely had a powerful influence on the other behaviors and factors," he noted.
"Our next step is to analyze additional data to confirm this and, based on the results, try to develop a multifaceted approach to improve health. That could include identifying predictors of success or failure at adhering to the guidelines."
Their findings were recently published online in Circulation.