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Most U.S. Adults Don’t Meet Health Recommendations

Here’s unfortunate news: Only a meager percentage of American adults meet four basic standards of a healthy lifestyle.

Researchers from Oregon State University wanted to learn about the general population’s adherence to healthy behaviors and how adherence levels were associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors.

This study focused on the records of 4,745 adults from the 2003–2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and in particular looked at activity levels, body composition, smoking status and nutrition intake. Physical activity was assessed via ActiGraph accelerometer, which measured exercise frequency, duration and intensity. Adults must have engaged in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly to meet the exercise standard. Participants underwent whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans to determine body fat percentage, and men and women measuring 5%–20% and 8%–30% body fat, respectively, were considered healthy. Blood tests measured smoking status. Subjects also completed a 24-hour food and fluid intake recall and were rated healthy if they adhered to USDA recommendations. The researchers then analyzed cardiovascular biomarkers such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, fasting glucose and more.

“Only 2.7% of all adults had all four healthy lifestyle characteristics,” the authors reported. Among participants, 72% were nonsmokers, 47% were sufficiently active, 38% ate a healthy diet and 10% had a normal body fat percentage.

“We also show that having more healthy lifestyle characteristics was associated with more favorable biomarker levels that are related to various chronic diseases,” the authors stated. “Although multiple healthy lifestyle characteristics are important, specific healthy lifestyle characteristics may explain much of the variation for several of the biomarkers.” Normal body fat percentage had the strongest correlation with healthy cholesterol levels, for example.

The authors concluded that more research is necessary to determine best practices for increasing nationwide adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors.

This study appeared in Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2016; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2016.01.009).

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