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Portion of Population at Low Cardio Risk Down Since 1999

Researchers blame adverse trends in diabetes, blood pressure and overweight for the decline

TUESDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- A modest increase in the portion of the U.S. population at low cardiovascular risk from 1971 to 1994 has reversed since 1999, pointing out the need for greater efforts at lifestyle modification and prevention, according to a study published online Sept. 14 in Circulation.

Earl S. Ford, M.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data on adults 25 to 74 years of age who participated in four National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys spanning the years 1971 to 2004. The researchers devised a low cardiovascular disease risk index consisting of nonsmoker; cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL (without medication); systolic blood pressure less than 120 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure less than 80 mm Hg (without medication); body mass index less than 25 kg/m2; and not diagnosed with diabetes.

In a positive trend, the researchers found that the prevalence of low risk factor burden increased from 4.4 percent during the 1971 to 1975 period to 10.5 percent during the 1988 to 1994 period, before dropping to 7.5 percent during the 1999 to 2004 period. The authors cite adverse trends in diabetes mellitus, body mass index, and blood pressure as the reason for the recent decline.

"Because prevention offers potentially great opportunities for lessening the burden of cardiovascular disease, it is critical that the percentages of U.S. adults who have optimal blood pressure, who have never developed diabetes mellitus, and who have optimal body weight be improved," Ford and colleagues write.

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