Fitness crisis? Only 7% of American adults have good cardiometabolic health

MEDFORD, Mass. — More than nine in 10 American adults may want to think about skipping summer barbecues and dieting instead. A new study has found that less than seven percent of the nation’s adult population has what health experts consider to be good cardiometabolic health.

Researchers at Tufts University say this measure includes five key components of health: blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol, adiposity (being overweight or obese), and the presence or absence of cardiovascular disease. .

Weight and blood sugar get out of control

Using information from around 55,000 people over the age of 20, the results just show 6.8% of American adults achieved optimal levels of health in all five categories in 2018. Additionally, the study found that American health has declined sharply over the past 20 years.

In 1999, one in three adults had healthy levels of adiposity, which means they were at a healthy weight and were neither overweight nor obese. In 2018, that number fell to just one in four Americans.

At the same time, three out of five people were free of diabetes and prediabetes in 1999. In 2018, however, more than six out of 10 adults had one of these conditions!

“These numbers are striking. It is deeply problematic that in the United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, fewer than 1 in 15 adults have optimal cardiometabolic health,” says Meghan O’Hearn, PhD candidate at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science. , in a medium. Release. “We need a complete overhaul of our healthcare system, our food system and our built environment because this is a crisis for everyone, not just one segment of the population.”

Instead of just looking for signs of disease, the team focused their study on signs of good, moderate, and poor cardiometabolic health.

“Illness is not the only problem,” says O’Hearn. “We don’t just want to be disease-free. We want to achieve optimal health and well-being.

Are societal disparities part of the problem?

The researchers also found large health gaps between American adults of different gender, age, ethnicity and education level. Specifically, the study found that less educated Americans were half as likely to be in peak cardiometabolic health.

Although there was a slight increase in the number of non-Hispanic white Americans achieving good cardiometabolic health between 1999 and 2018, the study authors say these measures dropped for Mexican Americans, others. Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks and adults of other races.

“It’s really problematic. Social determinants of health such as food and nutrition security, social and community context, economic stability and structural racism put people of different education levels, races and ethnicities at risk. increased health problems,” says lead author Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedmann School.

Importantly, this study used data from a time before the coronavirus pandemic – a time when physical activity declined significantly. Previous studies have shown that sedentary lifestyles during the pandemic have contributed to an even greater decline in health and fitness since 2020.

“Much of the population is at a critical inflection point”

Not all study participants passed the point of no return in health. Researchers say many fall into the category of “intermediate” health levels, which means their cardiometabolic health is not optimal, but not yet bad. These people may have certain conditions, including prediabetes, prehypertension, or they may be slightly overweight.

“Much of the population is at a critical inflection point,” adds O’Hearn. “Identifying these people and addressing their health and lifestyle early is key to reducing the growing health care burden and health inequities.

“Its impacts on national health spending and the financial health of the broader economy are enormous,” O’Hearn concludes. “And these conditions are largely preventable. We have the public health and clinical interventions and policies to be able to address these issues. »

The study should be published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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