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Only one in five U.S. citizens has optimal heart health

A new study published in the journal Circulation has found that about 80 percent of people in the United States have low to moderate cardiovascular health, according to the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8™ checklist. This is a new tool used to determine a cardiovascular health score based on components for ideal heart and brain health such as diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep duration, body mass index, blood lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure.

Life’s Essential 8™ is an updated algorithm from the scientifically proven Life’s Simple 7. The new metrics are more sensitive to differences among various groups of people, and also take into consideration the impact of sleep problems on heart health. In adults, overall cardiovascular health is computed by summing the scores for each of the eight components and dividing the total by eight. Scores below 50 indicate low cardiovascular health, those between 50 and 79 moderate cardiovascular health, and those over 80 high cardiovascular health. 

By applying these metrics to a cohort of 23,400 U.S. adults and children, the scientists found that the average cardiovascular health score was 64.7 for adults and 65.5 for children. Among adults, 19.6 percent had high cardiovascular health, 62.5 percent moderate, 17.9 percent low, and only 0.45 percent managed to score a perfect 100. Adult women had higher scores than men (67 compared to 62.5), and the health scores were generally lower at older ages. Non-Hispanic Asian Americans had a higher average cardiovascular health score than other racial and ethnic groups, followed by Non-Hispanic White, Non-Mexican Hispanic, Mexican, and Non-Hispanic Black individuals.

“These data represent the first look at the cardiovascular health of the U.S. population using the AHA’s new Life’s Essential 8™ scoring algorithm,” said study lead author Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, the president of the American Health Association and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University.

 “Overall, the cardiovascular health of the U.S. population is suboptimal, and we see important differences across age and sociodemographic groups. Analyses like this can help policy makers, communities, clinicians, and the public to understand the opportunities to intervene to improve and maintain optimal cardiovascular health across the life course,” he concluded.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer   

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