5 factors heavily influence your risk for heart attack and stroke.

3-D image of the heart and blood vessels branching out to the brain and different parts of the body; only a portion of the neck and upper chest are shown

Heart attack and stroke, two forms of cardiovascular disease, are leading causes of death in the US. Risk factors include a family history of cardiovascular disease, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Excess weight increases the chances that several of these risk factors will develop.

Do you have optimal cardiovascular health? And have you minimized your risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease in the future? Unfortunately, research suggests not many people in the US can answer yes to these questions.

What is cardiometabolic health?

Your cardiovascular system includes your heart, blood, and blood vessels. Cardiometabolic health is a term that refers to a combination of many of these risk factors. To estimate how many people in the US have optimal cardiometabolic health, researchers publishing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology analyzed survey results from more than 55,000 adults in the US. Optimal measures were defined as all five of the following:

The results are in — and they are eye-opening

The study found that, as of 2018, just 6.8% of the US population had optimal cardiometabolic health. That’s less than one out of every 14 people!

The researchers also found that:

And good cardiometabolic health may be even rarer now than this study suggests: these data were collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is evidence that physical activity decreased and unhealthy habits increased during pandemic lockdowns.

Good news about cardiometabolic health tucked in among the bad news

Though disappointing, the findings of this latest research offered some good news.

What can you do to improve your cardiometabolic health scorecard?

When studies find Americans are failing on health measures and that health disparities exist between different populations, it’s easy to become discouraged. But this can also be a personal call to action. Avoiding a heart attack or stroke would seem well worth it.

Think about your own cardiometabolic health. Could it be better? Small, manageable steps and a discussion with your doctor can help you move toward your goals.

Improving cardiometabolic health can be difficult to do on your own. Talk to your doctor about what steps to take and how best to monitor your progress.

The bottom line

Based on the findings in this research, few of us are doing enough to prevent the suffering and death caused by heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiometabolic disorders, especially among certain groups. The good news is that much of the risk of cardiometabolic disease is under our control. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to it.

Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling

About the Author

photo of Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School. … See Full Bio View all posts by Robert H. Shmerling, MD

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