A July 2022 Journal of the American College of Cardiology article entitled “Trends and Disparities in Cardiometabolic Health Among U.S. Adults, 1999-2018” written by Meghan O’Hearn, a doctoral candidate at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, is the basis for today’s entry.
This twenty-year longitudinal study involved over 50,000 people and determined that in cardio-metabolic terms, fewer than 7% of Americans are healthy. Cardio-metabolic health was based upon the following five parameters: body weight, blood pressure, serum glucose, lipid profile, and presence or absence of cardiac disease. (This study did not specifically include the following lifestyle factors that are also vital to optimal health: tobacco use, quality and quantity of sleep, and exercise, but these factors are certainly reflected in the aforementioned five parameters.)
The sad conclusion of the study was that more than 93% of Americans are unfit in cardiometabolic terms and therefore at increased risk for chronic illnesses including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
“While we know that cardio-metabolic health among Americans is a significant problem, we were surprised by the magnitude of the crisis. The lack of good health and well-being across the board is truly devastating and has only been getting worse.”
Among the components of cardio-metabolic health, the parameters that worsened the most over the 20-year course of the study were body weight and glucose levels. The percentage of adults with good cardio-metabolic health declined among the Hispanic and African American populations, while showing a modest improvement among Caucasians. Poor cardio-metabolic health was found to be inversely proportional to education level.
“Social determinants of health, such as food and nutrition security, social and community context, economic stability and structural racism may put individuals of different education levels, races and ethnicities at an increased risk of health issues.”
The article concluded that we have critical public health issues in the USA that require addressing and that there is too much emphasis on treatment rather than prevention of disease. More aggressive public health measures need to be taken regarding food and nutrition, exercise, and health maintenance.
“If we don’t address this dire and worsening cardio-metabolic health crisis, we will see increased disease burden, increased health care spending, and greater disparities across the U.S. population.”
Clearly, as much as cardio-metabolic health is a public health issue, individuals need to take personal responsibility in terms of their body weight, diet, level of physical activity, avoidance of toxic and unhealthy habits.