According to new research published in the journal Circulation, about 80% of Americans have either “low” or “moderate” heart health as assessed by the American Heart Association’s most updated metrics.
The study included over 23,400 adults and children who did not have cardiovascular disease from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys in 2013–2018. Participants’ cardiovascular health scores were calculated on a scale from 0 to 100 based on the American Heart Association’s newest algorithm for measuring heart health. Overall scores were calculated, and eight individual components of heart health were also calculated for each participant, including diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep duration, body mass index (BMI), blood lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure.
Overall, the mean cardiovascular health score for adults was 64.7, and the mean score for children was 65.5. Women tended to have slightly higher scores than men for overall heart health. The three individual categories where Americans scored the lowest were diet, physical activity, and BMI. Children in particular scored low on the diet metric, with an average score of only 40.6. Scores varied considerably for different demographic groups, particularly in the categories of diet, nicotine exposure, blood glucose, and blood pressure. Only 0.45% of adults scored 100 for overall heart health. Scores below 50 were considered “low” heart health, scores between 50 and 79 were considered “moderate,” and scores of 80 and above were considered “high.”
Given that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, this study emphasizes the importance of improving the factors that lead to heart disease. The areas where Americans scored lowest overall were diet, physical activity, and BMI, which can all be improved through lifestyle changes. Limiting screen time and focusing on a diet containing mostly vegetables unprocessed foods is a good place to start.