Data was collected from more than 1,200 U.S. adults who participated in the NHANES survey during the following periods: 1988-1994, 1999-2004, and 2005-2010. In particular, researchers focused on whether or not stroke survivors were meeting key heart health goals established by the American Heart Association, known as Life’s Simple 7™. The seven straightforward objectives are meant to be simple, everyday steps people can incorporate into their daily lives. They include getting active, following a heart-healthy diet, losing weight, quitting smoking, and maintaining healthy cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
While the data showed minimal improvement over time in some areas, it seemed participants had the hardest time with the diet and lifestyle initiatives. According to the study abstract, “although BP and lipid control improved over the last 2 decades, rates of obesity, diabetes, and poor diet increased.” i
Health experts believe an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, along with a Standard American Diet (SAD) high in saturated fats, trans fats, heavily processed foods and sugar, are major contributors to the overall decline in cardiovascular health. As it stands, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 1 in every four deaths annually. ii