Heart Health Declining Once Again

Researchers at the American Heart Association are concerned that Americans are becoming less healthy and facing greater risk for heart disease.

Recent decades have focused on getting Americans to quit smoking and lower their “bad” cholesterol. Those efforts seem to be working, with more people achieving optimal LDL levels and fewer people smoking. Unfortunately, the overall heart-health of Americans seems to be declining as obesity becomes more of a problem.

In the last few decades, the average body mass index (BMI) of adult Americans has risen from 26.5 to 28.8. Anyone with a BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 is classified as obese. In other words, the average adult American is overweight and dangerously close to obesity.

Children and teens aren’t faring much better. Some estimates suggest as many as one-third of children and teens in the U.S. are obese. In addition to being heavier, young Americans are showing dangerously thicker hearts, a measure of potential risk for later heart disease.

Perhaps adding to the problem is the perception that being overweight is normal. Researchers say that a large portion of obese people they’ve studied believed that their body size was normal. These people not only didn’t think they needed to lose weight, but some believed they could safely gain even more weight.

Researchers are quick to point out that obesity is not benign. Excess weight does increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Monitoring your cholesterol and giving up cigarettes is not enough to prevent the threat of heart disease.