When it comes to the body’s most important muscle, most of us are weaklings, according to data published online in the journal Circulation (doi:10.1161/circulationaha.110.98015).

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cardiovascular Institute and elsewhere evaluated 1,933 participants and compared the results against the American Heart Association’s (AHA) criteria for optimal heart health. The criteria include nonsmoking; body mass index (BMI) below 25; at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity per week; four or five components of the AHA’s recommendations for a healthy diet; total cholesterol under 200; blood pressure below 120/80; and fasting blood glucose under 100. (To learn more about the AHA’s seven factors for heart health, see www.newsroom.heart.org/index.php?s=43&item=931.) The discouraging data indicated that only 1 in 1,900 people meets all seven of the components.

Julia Valentour, MS, program coordinator for the American Council on Exercise, is concerned by these results. “The group consisted of apparently healthy volunteers participating in a cardiovascular prevention study with a low prevalence of smoking and a high level of education,” she says. “These criteria usually correlate to healthier lifestyle choices and yet the prevalence of poor health was still alarmingly high. It’s imperative we educate the public about healthy behavior starting with the prevention of cardiovascular disease rather than focusing on the treatment.

To see how you or your clients rate on the heart health scale, visit www.mylifecheck.heart.org and click the “Get Your Assessment” button. The site also offers information and resources to improve heart health.