Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans and the American Heart Association wants to address that by improving the country’s cardiovascular health by 20% w/in the next 8 years.  In other words, they have established goals for 2020.  You can read about the goals and how the measures to meet them were established in a link below.

I read about them in a research article by Huffman, et al and in that article, I learned of the factors that are associated with cardiovascular or heart health.  Four of them are behavior related and three are under the skin indicators which can be measured medically. 

The full 7 factors of cardiovascular health as determined by AHA physicians and scientists are:
·         Smoking status
·         Diet quality
·         Weight
·         Amount of physical activity
·         Blood glucose levels
·         Cholesterol readings
·         Blood pressure numbers

I was posting about different healthy eating indexes when I found this research study. You may recall the AHEI 2010 criteria.  Here is how the AHA defined a healthy diet.

Primary Dietary Factors:
  • Fruits and vegetables:>4.5 cups per day
  • Fish: >two 3.5-oz servings per week (preferably oily fish)
  • Fiber-rich whole grains:>three 1-oz-equivalent servings per day
  • Sodium:<1500 mg per day
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages:<450 kcal (36 oz) 3 12 oz cans per week.
 Secondary Dietary Factors:
  • Nuts, legumes, and seeds:>4 servings per week
  • Processed meats: none or <2 servings per week
  • Saturated fat: <7% of total energy intake
The symbols mean greater than or equal to (>) or less than or equal to (<)
Many of us will need less than the amounts stated above because they were based on a 2000 calorie diet.

In the research study by Huffman, only the primary dietary factors were used and for each condition that the person achieved, they received one point.  Therefore, the total diet score could be 0 to 5.  People who scored 4 or 5 were considered to have an ideal diet.  The study results suggest that less than 1 % of Americans have an ideal diet.  This is disturbing and helps us to understand why so many are at risk for heart disease.  I have been thinking about my own diet pattern since reading this and I think I could be a 4 – but I have to work on that – including more fruit!  I am glad I have that booklet that tells me which fruits are best!

I would recommend that you read  this free article about  establishing the AHA criteria and goals. At the very least the information on pages 11 and 12, because it provides more information on diet factors and the research to support their importance.
If you are interested in the study by Huffman, Capewell, Ning,et al , it can be viewed here.