A recent report of the American Heart Association’s 2020 Impact Goal brings sad tidings. It looked at 2000 middle-aged community-dwellers in the US and found that only one (yes, one) met all seven components of their definition of ideal cardiovascular health. Indices of ideal health behaviors were met by 2.0% of participants, and indices of ideal health factors by 1.4%. The seven components of ideal cardiovascular health were four ideal health behaviors (not currently smoking; body-mass index (BMI) <25 kg/m2; physically “very active”; and consumption of three or more servings per day of fruits and vegetables) and three ideal health factors (total cholesterol <200 mg/dL untreated; systolic BP <120 mmHg and diastolic BP <89 mmHg untreated; and fasting plasma glucose (blood sugar) <100 mg/dL untreated). When the definition of ideal was relaxed from seven factors to five or more, less than 10% met the goal. Thirty-nine participants had all four components of the ideal behaviors, and only 27 had all three components of the health factors. Blacks did worse than whites (2.0 vs. 2.6%). Dr. Clyde Yancy from Northwestern University in Chicago stated that, “… the cardiovascular health status of the greater US community is miserable,” and that recent forecasts of life expectancy for babies born in the US in 2010 “alarmingly predict, for the first time, a shorter lifespan than the forebears of these children.”

I suppose, if you’re an accountant or an incorrigible “glass is half full” kind of a guy or gal, if the prediction of shortened lifespan pans out, you can rejoice that it will blunt the avalanche of aging infirm pouring into the system that will have to be cared for. Unfortunately, it’s likely the sheer numbers will overwhelm this little ray of dark hope.

It’s still possible that some major breakthroughs in research at the molecular and genetic levels will provide cures for some of the major chronic illnesses, rather than palliation, but this will probably be a few decades off. My advice in the meantime? Dust off that old treadmill or elliptical trainer and start getting healthy. Fast.


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