Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: A vanishing breed

Imagine, for a moment, that you are sitting in a room with several thousand so-called average Americans, plucked at random from all states and all walks of life. What percentage of the people in that room has the right stuff to help ward off a heart attack or stroke or keep from developing some other form of cardiovascular disease? Barely 8%.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came up with that number from in-depth national surveys of adults between the ages of 25 and 74. The researchers looked for this low-risk profile: not a smoker; total cholesterol under 200 milligrams per deciliter without the use of a statin or other cholesterol-lowering medicine; blood pressure under 120/80 without help from blood pressure medicine; no diagnosis of diabetes; and weight in the healthy range. Only one in 12 people filled the bill (Circulation, Sept. 29, 2009).

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