Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. Do you?

Almost half of American adults, 45% of us, now have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, according to a report from researchers from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Los Angeles Times reports that “one in eight Americans has at least two of the conditions and one in 33 has all three, sharply increasing their risk.” These “data come from the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.”

While “researchers should be able to use the new data to plan interventions, ‘the main thing here is for people to be aware that they have these conditions and know that lifestyle modifications and medications can control them and reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease,’ said epidemiologist Cheryl D. Fryar of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, one of the study’s authors.”

WebMD reported that “the study shows that about 8% of adults have undiagnosed high blood pressure, 8% have undiagnosed high cholesterol, and 3% of have undiagnosed diabetes.”

HealthDay reported that “blacks had a particularly high incidence of hypertension, 42.5 percent, compared to 29.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 26.1 percent of Mexican-Americans.”

The report indicated that “high blood cholesterol was more common among non-Hispanic whites (26.9 percent) than among blacks (21.5 percent) and Mexican-Americans (21.8 percent), while diabetes was more common among blacks (14.6 percent) and Mexican-Americans (15.3 percent) than among non-Hispanic whites (8.3 percent).”

“The number that really surprises me is the penetration of these conditions into the U.S. population,” Dr. Clyde Yancy of Baylor University Medical Center, president of the American Heart Association, told the LA Times.

“When that number is nearly 50%, that’s a huge wake-up call.” It means there are a large number of people “who think they are healthy…but are working under a terrible misconception.”

“This report is so timely and important because it crystallizes exactly what the burden is,” Yancy said. “It tells us the challenge we now face that could stress and potentially defeat any healthcare system we could come up with.”

Personal responsibility plays a big role in creating these three health problems, he said. “This trio begins with a quartet of smoking, a junk diet, physical inactivity and obesity. Those are all things we can do something about.”

According to a report in HealthDay, the CDC survey doesn’t attempt to learn the reason why the incidence of these major risk factors is so high.

Dr. Clyde W. Yancy, medical director of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute at Baylor University Medical Center, and president of the American Heart Association, told HealthDay he thinks he knows the reason: obesity.

“The burden of risk is directly related to the burden of obesity,” Yancy said. “Obesity is directly related to high blood pressure, directly related to diabetes, directly related to an abnormal lipid profile.”

And with 60 percent of adult Americans and 30 percent of younger Americans overweight or obese, the burden threatens to become worse, he said.

While the message about obesity and what causes it – lack of exercise, poor diet, overeating – is sent repeatedly, “people don’t get it,” Yancy said. “They are putting us at the risk of having a generation of Americans that has worse health than the previous generation, which has never happened before,” he said.

The CDC report is “a call to arms,” Yancy said. “Targeting obesity should now be on the top of the radar screen for everybody.”

So, what should you do about this?

This is what I recommend to my adult patients: Have a preventive medicine visit every 3-5 years in your 20’s, every three years in your 30’s, every two years in your 40’s, and every year after age 50.

As far as these disorders, be sure at each of these visits to have the following items checked:

  • Your blood pressure. (to screen for hypertension)
  • Your fasting blood sugar and A1C. (to screen for diabetes)
  • Your lipid profile. (to screen for cholesterol and lipid problems)
  • Your body mass index (BMI – to screen for overweight and obesity)
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