Poor eating and exercise habits could be the game-changer in the fight against heart disease and stroke deaths, according to the American Heart Association’s “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update 2013.

Between 1999 and 2009, the death rate from heart disease fell  over 30 percent, but still accounted for nearly one in three deaths in the nation. That’s 2,150 people dying from heart disease each day — about one death every 40 seconds.

In 2010, the American Heart Association set a goal to improve heart health of all Americans by 20 percent and reduce heart disease and stroke deaths 20 percent by 2020.

However, it looks like heart health may only improve by 6 percent if current trends continue. The biggest barriers to success are the rise in obesity and diabetes, and only slight improvements in diet and physical activity.

Among heart disease and stroke risk factors, the most recent data shows:

  • Almost 70 percent of adults 20 years or older are overweight or obese.
  • Among children ages 2-19, about 30 percent are overweight or obese.
  • Thirty-two percent of adults report no aerobic leisure activity
  • Thirty-three percent of adults have high blood pressure; African-Americans have among the highest prevalence of high blood pressure (44 percent) in the world.
  • About 8 percent of adults have diagnosed diabetes, and about 38 percent have prediabetes.

Despite four decades of improvement about 20 percent of men and 17 percent of women age 18 and over still smoke cigarettes.

However, we’re taking a more aggressive and innovative approach to improve health factors for all Americans.

Some of these include:

  • Working with health care systems to support and reward providers who help patients improve their health behaviors and manage their health risk factors.
  • Working with insurers to cover preventive health services and reward positive health behaviors.
  • Working with the education community to make changes in schools that support healthy diets and physical activity for children.
  • Building comprehensive worksite wellness programs.
  • Building healthier communities with improved access to healthier foods and green space for physical activity.

We’re optimistic that if we increase our efforts in heart disease and stroke prevention we can save lives. But we can’t do it alone. Information on improving your heart health can be found at www.MyHeartMyLife.org. To learn more about some of the policy initiatives of the association, go to http://bit.ly/VmAoIg