Unhealthy Behaviors Could Slow Progress Against Heart Disease and Stroke

More than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, and a third say they do not get any exercise, according to a recent report from the American Heart Association (AHA).  Clinicians are worried that these trends will undermine the tremendous progress that has been made in combating heart disease and stroke.

In its “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update 2013,” the AHA reported that between 1999 and 2009, the rate of deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) fell 32.7 percent, but still accounted for nearly one in three deaths in the U.S.  However, the organization estimates that heart health will only improve another 6 percent if current trends continue.

“Americans need to move a lot more, eat healthier and less, and manage risk factors as soon as they develop,” said Alan S. Go, M.D., chairman of the report’s writing committee and chief of the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Conditions Section of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, Oakland, Ca.  “If not, we’ll quickly lose the momentum we’ve gained in reducing heart attack and stroke rates and improving survival over the last few decades.”

The data show that 68.2 percent of adults age 20 and over and 31.8 percent of children are overweight or obese. Meanwhile, 32% of adults, 17.7% of girls and 10 % of boys report fewer than an hour of aerobic activity in the past week.

The AHA is calling for healthcare systems to support and reward providers who help patients improve their health behaviors, insurers to cover preventive health services and reward positive health behaviors, and the education community to support healthy diets and physical activity for children among other interventions.

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