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Despite numerous warnings about the risks posed by cardiovascular diseases, Americans are still not doing enough to improve their heart health, says Datamonitor consumer markets analyst Mark Whalley, author of the report “Opportunities in Heart Health: Consumer Attitudes & Behaviors.” In 2008, only a third of people in the United States told Datamonitor that they pay a “high” or “very high” amount of attention to their heart health. Worryingly, a quarter (26.5 percent) admitted that they only pay a “low” or “very low” amount of attention to what is a critical issue both at home and abroad.
The World Health Organization estimated that 17.5 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2005 and that, if something is not done to reverse the trend, this figure will rise to 20.5 million by 2020. The signs are not positive, with Datamonitor predicting that more than 40 percent of children in the United States will be overweight or obese by 2013.
Functional food manufacturers are attempting to rectify this problem by creating products that tout heart benefits. This has resulted in a number of interesting products that claim to actively lower cholesterol or even burn calories. However, American consumers remain skeptical about the credibility of such products, especially those that tout calorie-burning properties. When surveyed by Datamonitor, 33 percent considered these claims to be untrustworthy, compared to just 21 percent who said that they could be trusted.
Despite this, interest in “heart-healthy” products has seen an overall increase. Omega-3 has emerged as an ingredient that consumers are familiar with, and foods that claim to be low in saturated fats or low in cholesterol are increasingly popular. It is also encouraging that fewer people are smoking, as this acts as a significant risk factor.
Ensuring that our hearts are healthy in the future is a difficult task, and the signs are not all good. “It is critical that consumers do not believe that simply consuming more heart-healthy products will solve all their problems. Achieving good heart health is about lifestyle as well as diet, and we are spending less time exercising,” warns Whalley. He concludes: “There are positive signs that products are getting better for our hearts but, in difficult financial times, they need to do more to convince people that they are worth the money. What’s more, people must start to take more of a long-term interest in their hearts before it is too late.”