What’s Breaking American Hearts?

Feb 21 · 4 minutes

We have asked 11,408 people who have heart problems to help us understand how many of the chronic conditions or lifestyle choices could be prevented. Then, we ranked the top reasons behind high blood pressure and high cholesterol. So what’s breaking American Hearts?

Here are the top culprits, ranked by frequency:

1. 75% of people surveyed are not physically active

Generally, staying healthy requires at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Lack of physical activity is one of the most common characteristics among people seeking help with their cardiovascular health.

Out of all the people surveyed, 75% said they were only lightly physically active. 24% mentioned they were moderately active (2–5 workouts per week), while only 1% said they were very active (6+ workouts). 

“Exercise lowers blood pressure, increases oxygen amount in the blood, and strengthens the heart muscle. Also, it helps prevent the development of diabetes, maintain weight, and reduce hypertension, all of which are independent risk factors for heart disease,” said Robertas Pranevičius, MD.

25% of Americans are not physically active at all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

2. 74% of people surveyed have obesity

Obesity unbalances the cholesterol levels and raises the bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in your body vessels. This increases blood pressure and harms the cardiovascular system. 

Obesity is the most common chronic disease among people who struggle with cardiovascular health. 74% of survey respondents have obesity, and 25% are overweight. Only around 1% of respondents are within a healthy weight range.

“This finding is consistent with other scientific research and proves that obesity is one of the main factors that accelerate cardiovascular diseases,” explains Robertas Pranevičius, MD.

Obesity is a major problem for 42.4% of Americans, according to the CDC. 

There are plenty of reasons why it develops, including genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. But an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise are the leading factors responsible for it. 

3. 28% of people surveyed have allergies

The report also uncovers that allergies might be another important element connected to heart health.

Out of 11,408 people surveyed, 28% mentioned having at least one food allergy. The most common allergies are lactose, fish, shellfish, wheat or gluten, and soy. The levels of it vary slightly when we compare people who have high blood pressure and people with high blood cholesterol levels.

“Of course, we need more research here. But this could be another crucial ingredient that is highly related to cardiovascular health,” said Pranevičius.

Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in America, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. More than 50 million people suffer from allergies every year. 

4. 15% of people surveyed also have diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that unbalances the hormone system in the body. High blood sugar and high cholesterol levels cause complex damage to our multiple systems, damage the nerves, and cause various neurological conditions. Finally, high blood sugar and high cholesterol levels narrow down the blood vessels and impact the blood flow to the main organs, increasing the heart disease risk.

People with diabetes mainly struggle with managing their blood sugar levels because their pancreas cannot produce or respond to the hormone insulin. The pancreas is also responsible for managing your cholesterol levels. The combination of high blood sugar and high cholesterol increases the buildup of plaque around arteries and other blood vessels, thus constricting the blood flow.

Out of the 11,408 people surveyed, 15% have diabetes. CDC reports that 1 in 10 Americans has diabetes, and 1 in 3 has prediabetes. 

Robertas Pranevičius added that “It’s essential for people with diabetes to pay a visit to a cardiologist regularly. Diabetes damages the nerves and people with it should be checked out as soon as possible.”

One of the most common causes of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes is obesity and an inactive lifestyle.

5. Almost 6% of people surveyed smoke 

According to the survey data, most people who struggle with heart health either do not smoke, prefer not to report they do it, or have already quit smoking.

CDC reports that smoking cigarettes is in decline in the US. In 2019, around 14% of American adults smoked, compared to 20.9% in 2005. 

“Smoking has a terrible impact on your heart health. It’s refreshing to see that people who seek to improve their health already take steps to get rid of this habit,” said Pranevičius.

Final thoughts

Not all of these conditions can be modified by the person, but most can be. 

For instance, most of us can increase our physical activity level or explore healthier food options. The same habits that could make us healthy become the most common culprits behind cardiovascular disease. 

A combination of sustainable habit change and motivation might be the first step toward a healthier heart.

Ready to learn more?

Check the full report here.  


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