Less than 3 percent of Americans live a healthy lifestyle according to new research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The latest data indicates that over the last 35 years, obesity rates in American adults have more than doubled, and states like Arkansas, West Virginia, and Mississippi now report obesity rates among their population as high as 35%. With a steady increase in obesity rates across all states, it is no surprise that a lack of a healthy lifestyle is a major contributor to an array of secondary conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes that require long-term care.
Researchers analyzed patient data from a 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The 4,745 participants of the survey agreed to wear an accelerometer for a week to measure psychical activity, and to utilize a 24-hour food diary to log food choices throughout the survey period. To help select a representative sample, participants had to be non-smokers and lead a healthy lifestyle that was defined as engaging in moderate to vigorous exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes a week. Another qualification was that participants had to have a diet score above 40 percent on the Healthy Eating Index set by the United States Department of Agriculture that measures the diet quality based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In addition to diet, men participants had to have a body fat percentage under 20 percent and women under 30 percent.
Healthy Eating Index
Surprisingly, only 2.7 percent out of the 4,745 patients observed in the survey met all criteria. Researchers then compiled and analyzed the data and revealed demographic differences among men and women participants. According to the analysis, men were more likely to be physically active, while women were more likely to be non-smokers and consume a healthy died based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Other components of the data revealed that older participants had higher body-fat percentages and were less active when compared to younger subjects.
Lower Risk of Heart Disease
With only 2.7 percent of participants meeting all qualifications, researchers revealed that those individuals had lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and related conditions like high blood pressure, high white blood cell count, and high LDL cholesterol levels.
While the findings of the study suggest that leading a healthy lifestyle may help reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease, preset normal baseline body fat requirements may not be good measures that are representative of the total population. Researchers add that while multiple healthy lifestyle characteristics are important, health characteristics such a family history of obesity and diabetes should be considered when evaluating risk factors.