Less than 7 percent of the U.S. adult population has good cardiometabolic health, a devastating health crisis requiring urgent action, according to research led by a team from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
Researchers evaluated Americans across five components of health: levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol, adiposity (overweight and obesity), and presence or absence of cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, etc.). They found that only 6.8 percent of U.S. adults had optimal levels of all five components as of 2017-2018.
Among these five components, trends between 1999 and 2018 also worsened significantly for adiposity and blood glucose. In 1999, 1 out of 3 adults had optimal levels for adiposity (no overweight or obesity); that number decreased to 1 out of 4 by 2018. Likewise, while 3 out of 5 adults didn't have diabetes or prediabetes in 1999, fewer than 4 out of 10 adults were free of these conditions in 2018.
"These numbers are striking. It's deeply problematic that in the United States, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, fewer than 1 in 15 adults have optimal cardiometabolic health," said lead author Meghan O'Hearn.
The study looked at a nationally representative sample of about 55,000 people aged 20 years or older from 1999 to 2018 from the 10 most recent cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The research team focused on optimal, intermediate, and poor levels of cardiometabolic health and its components, rather than just presence or absence of disease. "We need to shift the conversation, because disease is not the only problem," O'Hearn said. "We don't just want to be free of disease. We want to achieve optimal health and well-being."
The study also assessed "intermediate" levels of health -- not optimal but not yet poor -- including conditions like pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension, and overweight. "A large portion of the population is at a critical inflection point," O'Hearn said.
"Identifying these individuals and addressing their health conditions and lifestyle early is critical to reducing growing healthcare burdens and health inequities."
At Herbsea, we believe this is one strong reason why it is critical to ensure that children develop healthy eating habits and exercise. The sooner healthy habits set in, the better the long-term outlook for good, reliable health as the person ages. And it is never too late to start!
O’Hearn M, et al. “Trends and Disparities in Cardiometabolic Health Among US Adults, 1999-2018” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2022; 80 (2): 138