Less than 1% of stroke survivors meet healthy heart standards

Less than 1 percent of stroke survivors meet the American Heart Association (AHA)’s heart health standards, researchers reported at last week’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

Just 20 percent of a population pool of 1,597 stroke patients met even four of the AHA’s “Life’s Simple 7” standards between 2011 and 2014, according to a release, suggesting an imminent downward decline. The Simple 7, which was created by the AHA in an effort to make cardiovascular control easier for heart patients, consists of seven simple steps: blood pressure management, cholesterol control, reducing blood sugar, getting active, eating better, losing weight and quitting smoking.

The final study cohort used by Amytis Towfighi, MD, and colleagues for this research was pulled from a nationally representative sample of 67,514 American adults. Of that group, 1,597 were both stroke survivors and had information on all Simple 7 goals.

Compared to the period between 1988 and 1994, the release stated, the proportion of patients who met none—or just one—of the Simple 7 health indicators grew from 18 percent to 35 percent in 2011 to 2014. Rates of high blood pressure and high cholesterol both declined between these two periods, falling from 45 percent to 26 percent and 38 percent to 10 percent, respectively, but the data indicated far more increases than decreases.

Rates of obesity jumped from 27 percent to 39 percent, the researchers said, which went hand-in-hand with an increase in poor diets. Between 1988 and 2014, the proportion of stroke survivors with subpar diets increased from 14 percent to 51 percent. Rates of prediabetes and diabetes grew from 49 percent to 56 percent.

After adjusting for risk factors, Towfighi et al. found that stroke patients who met none or just one of the Simple 7 goals were more likely to be black, live in poverty and have less than a high school education.

“These results highlight the need for targeting interventions to improve cardiovascular health,” the release read.