Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Heart Health Scorecard

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Diet and other lifestyle factors contribute to heart health.  The American Heart Association (AHA) has  published a seven-item checklist to summarize the lifestyle changes people may make to decrease their risks of having a heart attack.

The seven items include the familiar ones: being physically active, not smoking, having a healthy weight and diet, keeping cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels well within the recommended values.

A study assessed 1,933 middle-aged people to see how many were meeting these criteria.  Characteristics of the participants were:

  • One-half were black
  • Two-thirds were women
  • Most were college educated
  • Most earned at least $40,000 a year.
  • They volunteered to participate in the study that stated that the purpose of the study was to focus on heart health. One might expect healthier people to apply.

The results?  Not so good!!

  • Less than one in ten met five or more items on the checklist.
  • Only about two in ten met four items on the checklist.
  • Blacks were much less likely than whites to meet the criteria.
  • More than 80% were overweight or obese.
  • Sixty-one percent were not eating a healthy diet.
  • About 25% said they got regular exercise, but most said they exercised once in a while or not at all.
  • 75% had high or very high cholesterol levels.
  • 85% had high blood pressure

The AHA has set a goal to reduce deaths from heart disease by at least 20% by 2020.  I doubt that goal will be reached.  No wonder our kids are becoming unhealthy – look at their role models.  Perhaps they will do a better job when they’re adults than we have if we begin early enough to train their palates and attitudes about food – not an easy job in a fast-food and processed food world.


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