After nearly a quarter-century of improvement, the number of Americans at low risk for heart disease and stroke has dropped substantially...

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MILWAUKEE — After nearly a quarter-century of improvement, the number of Americans at low risk for heart disease and stroke has dropped substantially, raising fears about the future health of the country and the financial burden it faces, according to research published Monday.

The study found only 7.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 74 could be considered at low risk, according to the latest national data. At its peak in the early 1990s, that number had reached 10.5 percent after dramatic improvements from the early 1970s.

Doctors attributed the deteriorating heart health to too many calories and too little exercise, an imbalance that has become a way of life for many Americans.

The study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association (circ.ahajournals.org), analyzed data from large national health surveys taken every five years beginning in the early 1970s.