AHA metrics report only 1 in 5 people in the U.S. has optimal heart health

July 1, 2022
AHA Life’s Essential 8 scoring calculates heart problems which shows that 80% of people in the U.S. have below-optimal cardiovascular health.

About 80% of people in the U.S. have low to moderate cardiovascular health based on the American Heart Association’s new Life’s Essential 8 checklist according to a new study published in Circulation. Life’s Essential 8 details the Association’s updated guidance to measure cardiovascular health, adding healthy sleep as essential for ideal heart and brain health.  

Researchers found the U.S. population is well below optimal levels of cardiovascular health after applying the Life’s Essential 8 cardiovascular health scoring, the American Heart Association’s updated metrics to measure heart and brain health. The report from was released by the American Heart Association.

The Life’s Essential 8 scoring was calculated using data from more than 23,400 adults and children from national health surveys from 2013-2018. Results show 80% of people in the U.S. have below-optimal cardiovascular health, and scores differed significantly according to age, gender, race/ethnicity, family income and depression status. The average cardiovascular health score based on Life’s Essential 8 was 64.7 (out of a possible 100) for U.S. adults and 65.5 for children.

The Life’s Essential 8 metrics are incorporated into the Association’s My Life Check tool to determine a cardiovascular health score based on eight essential components for ideal heart and brain health: diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep duration, body mass index, blood lipids, blood glucose and blood pressure. It is an updated algorithm from the scientifically proven Life’s Simple 7, which did not include sleep heath. Life’s Essential 8 also updated some of the previous version’s metrics to be more sensitive to differences among groups of people. In adults, overall cardiovascular health is calculated for each individual by summing the scores for each of the 8 metrics together and dividing the total by 8, to provide a score ranging from 0-100. Thus, the highest or healthiest cardiovascular health score possible is 100. Overall scores below 50 indicate “low” cardiovascular health, 50-79 is considered “moderate” and scores of 80 and above indicate “high” cardiovascular health.

The analysis found:

  • Life’s Essential 8 aligns with Life’s Simple 7, however, it was more sensitive to differences in cardiovascular health among groups of people and individuals.
  • The average cardiovascular health score based on Life’s Essential 8 was 64.7 for U.S. adults and 65.5 for U.S. children. The children’s average took into consideration age-based modifications for metrics in diet, physical activity and BMI for children ages 2 through 19 years.
  • Only 0.45% of adults scored 100 on Life’s Essential 8.
  • 19.6% of U.S. adults had high cardiovascular health; 62.5% moderate; and 17.9% low.
  • Adult women had higher average cardiovascular health scores, of 67, compared to men, with a score of 62.5.
  • In general, U.S. adults scored lowest in the areas of diet, physical activity and BMI.
  • Cardiovascular health scores were generally lower at older ages.
  • Individuals who identify as Non-Hispanic Asian Americans had a higher average cardiovascular health score than other racial/ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic White individuals had the second highest average cardiovascular health score, followed, in order, by Hispanic (other than Mexican), Mexican, and Non-Hispanic Black individuals.
  • Children’s diet scores were low, at an average of 40.6.
  • Adult sociodemographic groups varied notably in cardiovascular health scores for diet, nicotine exposure, blood glucose and blood pressure.

Visit the American Heart Association for the full report