• Cardiovascular

    Mayo survey: Americans taking action to improve heart health

a health care provider in a white lab coat and stethoscope holding a red plastic heart
Results of a new Mayo Clinic survey show most Americans are working to improve their heart health.

“Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of men and women,” says Dr. John Wald, medical director for Public Affairs at Mayo Clinic. “The encouraging news is people are taking action and making changes that can have a positive impact on their cardiovascular fitness.”

According to the latest Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup, three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans abstain from smoking to prevent heart disease, while nearly two-thirds exercise regularly (64 percent) or eat specific heart-healthy foods (63 percent).

“Men were more likely to exercise to improve their heart health, and women were more likely to alter their diet to improve their heart health,” Dr. Wald adds.

Watch: Dr. Wald comments on heart health improvements by gender.

Results also show, when there is a family history of heart disease, cardiovascular health becomes even more focused.

“Eight-five percent of Americans have a greater awareness of symptoms of a heart attack just based on the fact they’ve had a friend of a family member who has had a heart attack," Dr. Wald says.

Watch: Dr. Wald comments on heart health awareness through family history.

Because of a family history, two-thirds (67 percent) of survey participants say they have made dietary changes. Nearly as many (59 percent) began monitoring their blood pressure and cholesterol regularly. Approximately half (51 percent) increased exercise.

The survey also reveals African-Americans are most worried about their heart health with more than two-thirds (71 percent) describing themselves as concerned, compared to Caucasian (41 percent) and Hispanic (37 percent) participants.

“And they have a reason to be worried,” says Dr. Wald. “Even though heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans, African-Americans  die at a much higher rate than other groups within the U.S. So I think it’s a point that we have to address.”

Watch: Dr. Wald comments on African-American concern about heart health.

More than 1,000 people participated in the latest Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup conducted by phone in mid-December. All respondents were 18 or older.

Additional insights from the survey:

  • Americans find general search engines such as Google and Bing the most helpful in learning about health conditions (71 percent) and proactively managing their health (62 percent).
  • Doctors (81 percent) have the biggest impact on what Americans know about heart health, followed by family (63 percent), friends (46 percent) and the media (33 percent).

  • The highest proportion of respondents (29 percent) said their job and/or school contributed the most to their stress level in 2016.
  • The top reasons for exercising are cardiovascular health (66 percent), weight loss or management (65 percent) and stress relief (58 percent).
  • Two in 5 (42 percent) Americans are aware of the target heart rate they should be achieving in aerobic exercise for their age.