Nearly Half of U.S. Adults Have Heart Risk Factors

A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 45% of all American adults have heart risk factors from high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. Each of these constitutes a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular problems

Of those with increased risk factors: 30.5 percent had high blood pressure, 26 percent had high blood cholesterol levels and 9.9 percent with diabetes.

“What's even more alarming is that "15 percent of the population is unaware that they have one or more of these conditions," said survey author Cheryl D. Fryar, a health statistician with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Blacks had a particularly high incidence of hypertension, 42.5 percent, compared to 29.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 26.1 percent of Mexican-Americans. High blood cholesterol was more common among non-Hispanic whites (26.9 percent) than among blacks (21.5 percent) and Mexican-Americans (21.8 percent), while diabetes was more common among blacks (14.6 percent) and Mexican-Americans (15.3 percent) than among non-Hispanic whites (8.3 percent), according to the report.

Dr. Clyde W. Yancy, medical director of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute at Baylor University Medical Center, and president of the American Heart Association, points to the main culprit: obesity.

"The burden of risk is directly related to the burden of obesity," Yancy said. "Obesity is directly related to high blood pressure, directly related to diabetes, directly related to an abnormal lipid profile."

And with 60 percent of adult Americans and 30 percent of younger Americans overweight or obese, the burden threatens to become worse, he said.

While the message about obesity and what causes it -- lack of exercise, poor diet, overeating -- is sent repeatedly, "people don't get it," Yancy said. "They are putting us at the risk of having a generation of Americans that has worse health than the previous generation, which has never happened before," he said.

The CDC report is "a call to arms," Yancy said. "Targeting obesity should now be on the top of the radar screen for everybody."