News & Events

Added to My Toolbox
Removed from My Toolbox
Added to My Toolbox
Removed from My Toolbox
Feb 09, 2011

Studies Paint Mixed Picture of World's Health

Heart disease is a main concern for both the U.S. and world.

It’s not a pretty picture. In many parts of the world—especially the United States—people just keep getting fatter.

Three new studies show that almost twice as many people are seriously overweight today as in 1980. Worldwide, that means that more than a half billion adults are obese.

The studies were published in an online edition of The Lancet. They reported on the health of millions of people in 199 countries around the globe.

Obesity Increases Risk of Heart Disease

Being obese puts people at risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as arthritis and diabetes. Every year about 3 million people die from illnesses caused by obesity.

Researchers defined obesity as a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30 kg/m2. BMI measures both height and weight to figure out if someone is overweight. For example, a woman who is 5-feet, 5-inches tall and weighs 180 pounds would have a BMI of 30. A man who is 6 feet tall and weighs 221 pounds would also have a BMI of 30.

In the United States, the average BMI is more than 28 kg/m2.

The good news from the studies is that blood pressure and cholesterol levels have come down since 1980. But that’s just an average. In some countries blood pressure and cholesterol levels are climbing.

Blood Pressure Out of Control

Overall, nearly 1 billion people around the world have uncontrolled high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Every year it causes 7 million deaths around the world.

Researchers defined uncontrolled high blood pressure as above 140/90 mmHg.

In the United States, doctors have been successful in reducing average blood pressure levels to nearly normal levels. A normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg.

Researchers said blood pressure is lower because of blood pressure medications, and because people eat less salt and more fruits and vegetables.

Improvements in Cholesterol in US

Cholesterol levels have dropped a little since 1980, but not in all countries.

In the United States and other wealthy countries, cholesterol levels have edged down since 1980. However, they still average about 202 mg/dL, which makes them some of the highest in the world.

In Japan, China and Singapore cholesterol levels are rising. Researchers said that was probably because people in these countries are eating more meat and animal fats.

The three studies show how important it is to eat a heart-healthy diet, have regular check-ups and take medications to treat illnesses if needed.


Christian Jacobs is CardioSmart

Born with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, Christian Jacobs has managed to beat the odds. Christian uses his experience to inspire others as an FH Foundation Advocate.

Lisa Cox is CardioSmart

Triathlete Lisa Cox was on a routine run with friends when she went into sudden cardiac arrest. As a survivor, she now stresses the importance of knowing your family history and prevention.

Brenda Keene is CardioSmart

Heart disease was a common thread in her family, but Brenda Keene was not going to give up after being diagnosed with coronary disease.

Gerry Yumul is CardioSmart

Gerry Yumul didn't ignore the signs and symptoms of a heart problem. Instead, he worked with his care team to undergo the recommended and life-saving tests and procedures he needed. 

Allison Jamison is CardioSmart

Family members and friends help Allison Jamison stay motivated to eat right, exercise and keep her medical appointments. She was born with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia and a heart defect.