The heart disease trifecta
Nearly half of all adult Americans have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, all conditions that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
One in eight Americans has at least two of the conditions and one in 33 has all three, sharply increasing their risk. Of those with at least one condition, 15% have not been diagnosed, according to the report released online.
“The number that really surprises me is the penetration of these conditions into the U.S. population,” said Dr. Clyde Yancy of Baylor University Medical Center, president of the American Heart Assn. “When that number is nearly 50%, that’s a huge wake-up call.” It means there are a large number of people “who think they are healthy…but are working under a terrible misconception.”
Though researchers should be able to use the new data to plan interventions, “the main thing here is for people to be aware that they have these conditions and know that lifestyle modifications and medications can control them and reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease,” said epidemiologist Cheryl D. Fryar of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, one of the study’s authors.
African Americans as a group had the highest proportion of hypertension, while whites were more likely to have high cholesterol and Mexican Americans were more likely to have diabetes, the researchers found. The greatest disparity was in hypertension, where 42.5% of blacks had the condition, compared with 29% of whites and 26% of Mexican Americans.
African Americans were more likely to have two or three of the conditions, the report found.
“This was pretty much what we expected,” Fryar said. “I don’t know that there is any one particular factor” to account for the racial disparities. That will require a lot more research, she added.
The data come from the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which releases new figures every two years. The survey consists of interviews conducted in participants’ homes, standardized physical examinations given to some participants and laboratory tests using blood and urine specimens.
“This report is so timely and important because it crystallizes exactly what the burden is,” Yancy said. “It tells us the challenge we now face that could stress and potentially defeat any healthcare system we could come up with.”
Personal responsibility plays a big role in creating these three health problems, he said. “This trio begins with a quartet of smoking, a junk diet, physical inactivity and obesity. Those are all things we can do something about.”