Data collected between 1988 and 2006 and presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting last month showed modest improvements in two risk factors for cardiovascular disease: the number of Americans who do not smoke increased from 45% to 50%, and the number of Americans who have achieved optimal (below 100 mg/dl) LDL levels increased from 22% to 28%.
But these improvements are counteracted by the rapidly growing prevalence of obesity that has occurred in the same time frame.
American adults’ average body mass index (BMI) went from 26.5 to 28.8 (25 and above is overweight, 30 and above is obese). Incidence of overweight in children went from 20% to 35%.
What have been the consequences of this increase in body weight?
“Obesity is not benign.”
-Dr. Tiffany Powell, lead author of the study1
Obesity robs people of their quality of life as they age – as reported in the International Journal of Obesity, obese individuals had double the rates of disability compared to normal-weight individuals.2
The number of Americans with healthy blood pressure has fallen by 5%. The number of those with good blood sugar control have decreased by 9%. Most alarming is that left ventricular mass in children, a predictive indicator for future heart disease and stroke, has also risen - their hearts are being forced to work too hard to pump blood to their excess body fat.
How will this affect the incidence of cardiovascular disease in this country?
“Many people feel the decline in [heart] risk factors is leveling off and there will be an acceleration of cardiovascular disease.”
-AHA spokesman Dr. Roger Blumenthal1
A large part of the problem is that our society views these factors – hypercholesterolemia, poor blood sugar control, hypertension, obesity – each as a separate issue with its own drug-based method of management. But they are not separate. The truth is, the same nutrient-rich, vegetable-based diet combined with regular exercise is effective in preventing and reversing all of these conditions.
2. Walter S et al. Mortality and disability: the effect of overweight and obesity. International Journal of Obesity (2009) 33, 1410–1418