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Few Americans have 'healthy' hearts

By Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily 


Just 3 percent of Americans have optimal heart health, while 10 percent have poor heart health, according to a new report from the American Heart Association.

The District of Columbia has the highest percentage of people with ideal heart health, at 6.9 percent, followed by Vermont, at 5.5 percent, and Virginia, at 5 percent. The states with the lowest percentage of people in ideal heart health are Oklahoma, at 1.2 percent, and West Virginia and Mississippi, both at 1.5 percent.

The findings are based on a 2009 survey of more than 350,000 Americans that collected information on seven indicators of heart health.

People were considered to have optimal heart health if they met the following criteria: They did not have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes; they were not overweight, underweight or obese; they did not smoke; they did at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week; and they ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

The maximum score was 7, and the average was 4.4. [See 7 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease.]

In general, people living in New England and western states had higher percentages of people with ideal heart health than did people hailing from southern states.

The findings show that the heart health of Americans varies dramatically by state, the researchers said. The study estimates could be used to help states set goals for improving heart health in their areas, they said.

The study excluded people with coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke because risk factors for heart disease in this population differ from those in people who don’t have a history of CHD or stroke.  The findings were based on people's self-reports. As a result, the study could have overestimated the percentage of people in ideal heart health if individuals didn't know they had a certain condition.

The study is published today (Dec. 19) in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

You can find out your heart health score by visiting the AHA's website.

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