Only One Percent of Young Adults Lead a Heart-Healthy Life


A research done by the University of Turku and the International i3C Consortium shows that ideal cardiovascular health metrics have a positive impact on vascular health already in young adults.

​A heart-healthy diet includes a daily dose of vegetables.

​The research studied ideal cardiovascular health metrics and their associations with the carotid intima-media thickness in 5,785 young adults in Finland, the USA, and Australia. The ideal cardiovascular health metrics were measured with clinical examinations and the carotid intima-media thickness with ultrasonography. According to present knowledge, the thickening of arteries is one of the major early changes of atherosclerosis.

– The number of ideal cardiovascular health metrics correlated with vascular health: the more ideal cardiovascular health metrics were present, the lower the carotid intima-media thickness was. Even if just four ideal cardiovascular health metrics were present, the carotid intima-media thickness was lower than the average, says Academy Professor Olli Raitakari from the University of Turku.

The ideal cardiovascular health metrics are normal weight, not smoking, sufficient physical exercise and a healthy diet, as well as maintaining recommended levels of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. A healthy diet includes vegetables, fruits and wholegrain products daily, as well as fish at least twice a week. The ideal situation would be to also avoid eating saturated fat and salt, as well as sugary soft drinks.

The definition of ideal cardiovascular health was presented in 2010 as a part of the impact goals of the American Heart Association to lower the mortality caused by heart diseases. The ideal cardiovascular health is a sum of positive factors and many of its metrics can be influenced by following a healthy lifestyle.

Fish and Wholegrain Are Finnish Assets

– An ideal cardiovascular health with all of its ideal metrics was reached by only one percent of all participants. Most of them exercised enough, and many had the recommended levels of blood sugar and cholesterol. On the other hand, only 7% followed an ideal heart-healthy diet. Few ate enough fish and avoided salt and saturated fats, says Mervi Oikonen, Senior Research Fellow of the Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine.

On an international scale, Finns ate more fish and drank less sugary soft drinks. Finns also ate the most wholegrain.

Read More about the Research

The research has been published in the online medical journal Journal of the American Heart Association.

Oikonen M, Laitinen TT, Magnussen CG, Steinberger J, Sinaiko AR, Dwyer T, Venn A, Smith KJ, Hutri-Kähönen N, Pahkala K, Mikkilä V, Prineas R, Viikari JSA, Morrison JA, Woo JG, Chen W, Nicklas T, Srinivasan SR, Berenson G, Juonala M, Raitakari OT. Ideal cardiovascular health in young adult populations from the United States, Finland, and Australia and its association with cIMT: The International Childhood Cardiovascular Cohort (i3C) Consortium. Journal of the American Heart Association 2013.

Text: Jussi Matikainen
Picture: Martin Cathrae
Translation: Anniina Väisänen


Created 24.06.2013 | Updated 25.03.2019