By Jonathan Springston, Associate Managing Editor, AHC Media

A recent study found Americans have failed to overcome yet another low bar, this time criteria for a healthy lifestyle.

A group of researchers from three universities examined the prevalence of healthy lifestyle characteristics in 4,745 U.S. adults using 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data for the following parameters: being sufficiently active, eating a healthy diet, being a nonsmoker, and having a recommended body fat percentage. Almost all subjects (97.3 percent) failed to meet all four criteria. Eleven percent met zero goals, 34 percent met one, 37 percent met two, and 16 percent met three.

“The behavior standards we were measuring for were pretty reasonable, not super high. We weren’t looking for marathon runners,” Ellen Smit, senior author of the study, said. “This is pretty low, to have so few people maintaining what we would consider a healthy lifestyle. This is sort of mind boggling. There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement.”

Instead of relying on self-reporting, researchers employed technology in their methodology. Participants wore accelerometers to determine actual movement levels, submitted to blood tests to confirm they were non-smokers, were subjected to X-ray absorptiometry to measure body fat. Researchers compared lifestyle characteristics to a variety of cardiovascular health biomarkers, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and C-reactive protein.

“I would expect that the more healthy lifestyles you have, the better your cardiovascular biomarkers will look,” Smit added.

AHC Media publishes two journals (Internal Medicine Alert and Integrative Medicine Alert) that often examine the benefits of not smoking as well as the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. In the March 30 issue of Internal Medicine Alert, Harold Karpman, MD, FACC, FACP, examined health and fitness apps currently available on many smartphones. These apps contain a wealth of behavior change techniques typically used in clinical behavior interventions and may represent a medium by which these interventions can be adjusted rapidly as needed. Another journal (Clinical Cardiology Alert) is the go-to heart health source for cardiologists.