Epidemiologists love to crunch numbers — and Americans, on the whole, love to ignore them. Even the most health-conscious among us soon grow numb to the storm of statistics warning us about rising levels of obesity or falling levels of exercise or all the other numerical indicators that tell us how unwell we’re getting. But on Sept. 14, a team of researchers released a new finding that should cause even the most data-weary folks alarm.
According to a paper published Monday in Circulation,a journal of the American Heart Association, fewer than 8% of all Americans can now be considered at low risk for heart disease. No one needs a statistician’s help to know that that means more than 92% of us are not as healthy as we could be, and that’s worth paying attention to.
The study was actually the latest in a series of studies, all of which have been part of a program known as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). Administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the program is a four-decade attempt to evaluate the country’s health by conducting surveys and physical exams with a rotating sample group of about 10,000 Americans. The first NHANES study was conducted from 1971 to 1975, the second from 1976 to 1980, the next from 1988 to 1994, and the most recent — from which the heart-disease findings are only now being released — from 1999 to 2004.
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