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Most Adult Americans at Some Risk for Heart Disease
Date:9/14/2009

Surging obesity rates have reversed gains, study finds

MONDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Decades of steady progress against heart disease may be on the wane, experts say, with a new study showing that only 7.5 percent of Americans are now in the clear when it comes to heart disease risk factors.

The continuing U.S. obesity epidemic may bear much of the blame for the downturn, the researchers added.

"Our results raise the concern that a worsening cardiovascular risk profile in the population could potentially lead to increases in the incidence and prevalence of cardiovascular disease," said lead researcher Dr. Earl S. Ford, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Potential increases in cardiovascular disease and diabetes could affect the nation's medical costs."

Another expert agreed. Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, called the study "a wake-up call to the entire country to take more responsibility for their health by knowing their own cardiovascular risk factor profile and, in consultation with their physician, to take proactive steps to reduce their cardiovascular risk."

The report is published in the Sept. 14 online edition of Circulation.

For the study, Ford's team collected data on adults 25 to 74 years of age. They specifically looked for low-risk factors for heart disease -- items such as not smoking, having low blood cholesterol, normal blood pressure, normal weight and no sign of diabetes.

Using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, Ford's group found that in 1971 to 1975, a paltry 4.4 percent of adults had all five of these heart-healthy factors. However, by 1994 that number had risen to 10.5 percent of adults.

But the latest data, from 2004, found that the fraction of American adults with all five healthy characteristics had dropped to 7
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