Few Americans Follow 4 Main Pillars of Heart Health

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Most Americans know that a heart-healthy lifestyle includes eating a healthful diet, not smoking, being physically active and keeping weight and body fat down. But a new study found that fewer than 3 percent of American adults could claim all four healthy elements.

Only 2.7 percent of the Americans in the study were nonsmokers who ate a reasonably good diet, including eating plenty of vegetables and whole grains and avoiding saturated fat; got at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week; and had a healthy percentage of body fat, defined as up to 20 percent for men and 30 percent for women.

The results were “shocking,” said Ellen Smit, an associate professor at Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences and the senior author of the report. “I think it’s a wake-up call.”

The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, was based on data gathered from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2006 and included a nationally representative sample of 4,745 Americans.

Eating habits were self-reported, which can be unreliable, but other measures were based on objective tests, including blood samples to verify smoking status, a sophisticated X-ray test to determine body fat, and accelerometers to measure physical activity.