The American Heart Association (AHA) has been at the forefront of providing evidence-based information and best practices to improve the cardiovascular health of the US population.
To address this goal, the AHA first (in 2010) developed a recipe for health called Life’s Simple 7 – the seven most important predictors of heart health and a path to achieving ideal cardiovascular health.
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Simple 7 includes four modifiable behaviors (smoking, healthy weight, healthy eating, and physical activity) and three biometric measures (blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar).
Life is simple 7
A summary of these original seven steps on the AHA website is as follows:
Stop Stockon: Smokers have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing for your health.
Eat better: A healthy diet is one of your best tools for fighting cardiovascular disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet will increase your chances of feeling good and staying healthy for life!
Be active: An active lifestyle is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and the ones you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases the length and quality of your life.
Lose weight: When you shed excess fat and unwanted pounds, you reduce the strain on your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and skeleton. You’ll give yourself the gift of an active lifestyle, lower your blood pressure, and help you feel better.
Blood pressure management: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure is within healthy limits, you put less stress on your heart, arteries and kidneys, which keeps you healthier longer.
Cholesterol Control: High cholesterol contributes to the formation of plaque, which clogs arteries and leads to heart disease and stroke. When you control your cholesterol, you give your arteries the best chance to clear blockages.
Lowering blood sugar: Most of the food we eat is converted into glucose (or blood sugar), which our bodies use for energy. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
The need for improved living 8
Released June 29, Life’s Essential 8 also features June 29 chapter updates, lipids, and more, debuting in a new President’s Council. A link to the tip can be found at the end of the column.
The advanced Life’s Essential 8 measurement tool—formerly known as Life’s Simple 7—has been updated to provide improved means of measuring and monitoring the health of resumes for better health and now includes the entire life course.
Metrics include health behaviors such as diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, and sleep, as well as health factors such as body weight, lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure. A person’s overall CV health score, which can range from 0 to 100, is an unweighted average of eight component metric scores.
Life’s Essential 8 are key measures to improve and maintain cardiovascular health, as defined by the American Heart Association. A healthy cardiovascular system can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other major health problems.
What’s new in 2022?
- Adds sleep as a component of heart health.
- Creates a new guideline for dietary assessment.
- Account for vaping and smoking.
- Regulates cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
- Score each component to average your overall heart health score on a 0-100 scale.
See the links at the end of the column for access to the My Life Check online tool, as well as additional information on the development of the updated Life’s Essential 8.
Better understanding of modifiable risk factors and how we can reduce CVD deaths (and costs for those living with CVD) is a challenge, but it can be achieved through education and proactive action by individuals, groups, and individuals. government work together.
The following two facts from the CDC should wake everyone up. According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for men, women, and most racial and ethnic groups.
- In 2020, nearly 697,000 people in the United States died of heart disease—one out of every five deaths.
Resources and Information
The AHA President’s Advisory was released on June 29 and is available at: https://newsroom.heart.org/news/american-heart-association-adds-sleep-to-cardiovascular-health-checklist.
The American Heart Association’s updated checklist, which now includes indicators of sleep health, shows that approximately 80% of US adults are in the low to moderate CV health range, with the lowest scores seen in the areas of diet, physical activity and BMI. Additional information is available here: https://www.healio.com/news/cardiology/20220629/aha-updated-lifes-essential-8-scoring-shows-most-americans-have-suboptimal-cv-health.
Use the My Life Check online tool to assess your heart health and better understand your risk of heart disease and stroke, based on Life’s Essential 8. Organizations and individuals can use this tool: https://mlc.heart.org/.
Mark Mahoney served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Latin America for over four years, has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) for over 35 years, and completed graduate studies in Public Health at Columbia University. He can be contacted at email@example.com.