5 factors that ruin heart health in the U.S.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year, equating to 1 of every 4 deaths.
A recent survey by Kilo Health involved 11,408 individuals having heart problems. The researchers investigated the participants for chronic health conditions and lifestyle choices. The study aimed to discover lifestyle factors that hamper heart health, so heart diseases could be prevented.
The investigation led to the following findings, ranked in terms of frequency.
1. 75% of the participants are not physically active
Of those who were surveyed, 75% reported light physical activity. On the other hand, 24% said they were moderately active (2–5 workouts per week), and only 1% said they were very active (6+ workouts per week).
In the United States, around 35% of deaths due to coronary heart disease are associated with physical inactivity. This number can’t be taken lightly since coronary heart disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S., incurring over 700,000 annual deaths.
The good news is that heart diseases can be avoided by adopting an active lifestyle. The American Heart Association recommends spending 150 minutes per week on moderate-intensity aerobic activity. This could be brisk walking, dancing, gardening, or playing tennis (doubles).
Regular exercise promotes healthy heart health by strengthening heart muscles, maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and increasing blood oxygen levels.
2. 74% of the participants have obesity
Obesity is the accumulation of excess body fat, with a body mass index exceeding 30. While obesity can happen due to multiple reasons, the most common ones include inadequate physical activity and unhealthy eating habits.
Kilo Health’s survey found that 74% of the participants were obese and 25% were overweight, whereas around 1% remained in the healthy weight zone.
These findings are alarming because obesity contributes to cardiovascular risk factors, such as abnormal cholesterol levels, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders.
Apart from increasing “bad” cholesterol levels (LDLs) in the blood, obesity reduces “good” cholesterol (HDL). Excess deposit of cholesterol causes arteries to shrink. And when the heart forcefully pumps blood through the arteries, it results in abnormally high blood pressure.
3. 28% of the participants presented food allergies
Food allergy is the 6th leading cause of chronic diseases in the U.S., with more than 50 million people suffering from it every year.
Around 3,195 participants (28%) in Kilo Health’s study reported having at least one food allergy. The most common ones were lactose, fish, shellfish, wheat or gluten, and soy.
Recent studies suggest a link between allergy and heart disease, resulting from the overactivity of the immune system and an increase in inflammatory molecules.
But, the data concerning the impact of allergies on CVD requires further validation to confirm if food allergies lead to heart disease.
4. 15% of the participants have diabetes
Out of all the people surveyed, 15% were diabetic.
According to the CDC, diabetes patients are twice as likely to develop heart disease than individuals not having the condition.
Since diabetes hampers the functioning of the pancreas, it can’t produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels.
When blood sugar increases, LDL and triglycerides (a type of fat) formation is encouraged while decreasing HDLs. This causes plaque formation on the walls of arteries, restricting blood flow and making the heart vulnerable to damage.
5. Around 6% of the participants smoke
Only 6% of the survey participants said they smoke. The majority were non-smokers, including some who had quit smoking.
Smoking is a major reason behind cardiovascular diseases, causing approximately one of every four deaths from CVD.
What makes smoking terrible for heart health is that it promotes clotting in the blood vessels and reduces flexibility. Because of this, it becomes difficult for the heart to maintain normal blood pressure and pump blood to every body part.
Further, the CDC point toward a declining trend of smoking in the U.S. Compared to 20.9% of smokers in 2005, 12.5% of adults smoked in 2020.
It’s good to see more and more Americans stopping smoking and choosing a healthy lifestyle.
Kilo Health’s survey indicates that heart diseases are predominantly caused by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. In other words, if you’re overweight or don’t engage in physical activities, you are at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
By following a healthy diet, meeting the recommended dose of physical activity, and managing stress levels, you can keep your heart healthy.