Only one in 1,000 is 'heart healthy'
ONLY one in 1,000 people is truly "heart healthy", according to doctors examining healthy living guidelines.
The American Heart Association has issued a list of seven steps to follow to minimise the chances of suffering cardiovascular disease. Those who meet all the criteria cut significantly their risk of having a heart attack, experts say.
Life's 'simple seven' are: not smoking, being physically active, not being overweight, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, keeping blood pressure down, regulating blood sugar levels, and eating healthily.
Prof Jean-Pierre Despres, scientific director of the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk, an academic health organisation, said that the number of people who met all seven criteria was minuscule.
He said: "If you look at those simple seven, and you measure what percentage of different populations around the developed world meet those criteria, it's only 0.1pc.
"In terms of having an optimal risk of cardiovascular disease, only one in 1,000 people is healthy."
He continued: "If you only use the traditional risk factors, like cholesterol and blood pressure, you would probably end up with 15 per cent."
But when exercise, or the lack of it, and diet were taken into consideration, the number who were really healthy was far smaller.
"Exercise and nutrition are the two hardest indicators of cardiovascular health to meet," he said.
Far fewer people got the recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise than claimed to do so, Prof Despres added.
Prof Despres also said that cutting out hidden salt and sugar from diets was very difficult, meaning very few actually eat healthily.
He claimed that the health benefit of meeting all seven steps was "amazing". He said: "Those who meet these criteria just don't have heart attacks before 65."
But Prof Despres said people should "forget about weight" as an end in itself and instead concentrate on quitting smoking and getting active.
"Being physically active is extremely beneficial for your heart health," he said.
Among obese people with the same waistline, he added, those who were physically active had half the chance of suffering from heart disease as those who were sedentary.
"Just moving from being sedentary to active reduces your risk, even if you are abdominally obese," he said.
Worldwide, lack of exercise caused more deaths than smoking, he added.
A US study has found that sticking to the seven steps can halve the chance of getting cancer. Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago studied the health of more than 13,000 people for 25 years. (© Daily Telegraph, London)