Feb. 20 (UPI) -- People in the United States may be bringing their blood pressure numbers down, but their weight continues to go up, a new study says.
The average body mass index, or BMI, was 29 for men and 29.6 for women, up from 28 for each group in 2001, according to research published Wednesday in Circulation. However, the percentage of people with high blood pressure went down, to 42 percent for women and 49 percent for men. That's compared to 43 and 51 percent in 2001.
"These rates leave much room for improvement, and the average BMI has gone up, with the greatest rise for women," said Sanne Peters, Research Fellow in Epidemiology at The George Institute and study lead author.
Researchers looked at blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and smoking data for men and women ranging in ages from 20 to 79, between 2001 and 2016. Then they compared the findings from 2001 to 2004 with those from 2014 to 2016.
Those five categories are the main contributors to heart disease, the leading cause of death among men and women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The biggest decline was in the cholesterol numbers. In 2016, the men's cholesterol rate plummeted by 44 percent while the women's rate decreased by only nine percent.
And rates of smoking went down for both groups, with men falling to 22 percent and women decreasing to 18 percent.
"We also saw a welcome increase in the number of people who were managing their diabetes and high blood pressure," Peters said. "But, the vast majority; around two-thirds of women, and 80% of men, still don't have these conditions under control and that's incredibly concerning."
About 11 percent of women and 13 percent of men had diabetes. Yet, only 30 percent of women and 20 percent of men had their disease under control.
Peters thinks it's important to analyze the data across these risk categories between each gender, to identify the need for differences in possible treatment methods.
"By assessing sex differences across major cardiovascular risk factors, this research offers crucial insight for individuals and clinicians aiming to better manage these risks," Peters said. "Further sex-specific research is needed to identify the relative impact of control or elimination of each factor in order to offer the most effective treatment for, and prevention from, heart disease."