More US adults at risk for heart attack, stroke: 4 study findings

More U.S. adults face heart attack and stroke risk today compared to adults one generation ago, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researches analyzed nationally representative survey data gathered from 1988 to 2014 from U.S. adults ages 25 and up who did not have a history of cardiovascular disease.

The study included approximately 21,000 white people, 10,400 African Americans, 4,000 U.S.-born Mexican Americans and 5,500 Mexican Americans born elsewhere. The researchers examined risk factors for heart disease that patients could potentially change through interventions, such as medication or lifestyle changes.

"The cardiovascular health of the U.S. started out low and has fallen," lead study author Arleen Brown, MD, PhD, told Reuters.  

Here are four study findings.

1. While African American adults no longer fall behind white adults in cardiovascular health as much as they previously did, the study found this is due to worsening health among white people rather than improving health among black people.

2. Even among the youngest people in the study, who ranged from age 25 to 44, the percentage of people with optimal heart health did not exceed 40 percent of whites, 25 percent of Mexican Americans and 15 percent of African Americans.

3. The study found those who received poor heart health scores had high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, high blood sugar, obesity, inactivity, smoking and ate limited fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If people did not have these issues and conditions, they could reach "optimal" heart health scores.

4. The study found the percentage of Americans with healthy eating and exercise habits who also had an ideal weight and well controlled blood sugar generally decreased over time.

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