February 1st, 2011
12:26 PM ET
On the heels of the new dietary guidelines being published urging Americans to cut salt, sugar and saturated fat consumption, a new government report highlights why the attention is warranted. More than one-third of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure and high levels of bad cholesterol.
High blood pressure and high "bad" (or LDL) cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease, the No. 1 killer worldwide, claiming more than 17 million lives each year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 800,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease annually, 150,000 of them are under the age of 65.
The CDC released two reports on Tuesday. One focuses on the prevalence of hypertension or high blood pressure among the U.S. adult population – the other looks at how many American adults have high levels of LDL or low-density lipoprotein levels – better known as "bad cholesterol." Both conditions contribute to heart attacks, strokes and other heart diseases. "Treatment for this disease accounts for $1 in every $6 U.S. health dollars spent," according to a CDC press release.
According to the reports, when it comes to high blood pressure:
* 68 million adults 18 and older have high blood pressure or are taking blood-pressure lowering drugs. That's 31% of the adult population.
When it comes to high levels of bad cholesterol, the numbers aren't very different:
* 71 million or 33.5% of adults 20 and older have high bad cholesterol levels
The United States is not alone on this front. A report by the WHO, also released on Tuesday finds many people living in England, Germany, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Scotland, Thailand are also unaware that they need treatment for their high bad cholesterol levels.
The new study suggests a comprehensive approach is needed to lower these numbers, which in turn can save a lot of lives and money. Better follow-up from health care professionals could help, but individuals have to make changes too.
For example, the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams (mg) of salt each day, according to health officials. The new USDA dietary guidelines suggest those at risk for or who already have high blood pressure, among others, should limit their salt intake to about half a teaspoon or 1,500 mg per day. But they say everyone else should try to stay under 2,300 mg a day. The recommendation for saturated fat intake has remained unchanged at 10% of daily calorie intake.
The American Heart Association thinks the new dietary recommendations do not go far enough, saying in a statement released Monday that it "is deeply disappointed in the federal guidelines' recommendations on sodium and saturated fat." The organization says it considers the recommendations a backwards step from the dietary guidelines released in 2005, and claims they are not consistent with USDA/HHS's own Advisory Committee recommendations, released in June 2010."
The new CDC hypertension report seems to validate the AHA's point. The hypertension study says if people limit their salt intake to the recommended 2,300 mg of per day, 11 million hypertension cases could be reduced. But if everybody consumed only 1,500 mg of salt per day, a total of 16.4 million Americans could be living without high blood pressure.
These studies are based on data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and are being published Tuesday in the CDC Vital Signs report.
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.