(Natural News) Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death in the US, accounting for 840, 768 deaths in 2016 alone. These statistics call for an increased awareness in improving and supporting cardiovascular health. While you cannot really change some risk factors of cardiovascular health – like sex, age or family history – there are some measures you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) developed a prescription for health that would help protect your heart.
“Life’s Simple 7” – predictors of heart health
The AHA defines ideal cardiovascular health based on seven risk factors in a model they call Life’s Simple 7. These metrics include four modifiable behaviors, also referring to things that could lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. These factors are quitting smoking, eating healthily, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. In addition, the AHA included three other measures, namely blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, which should be kept in check to keep your heart in tip-top shape.
In their study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open, graded each of these metrics and classified them into three categories: poor (0 points), intermediate (1 point) and ideal (2 points).
“Only about 2% of people in the United States and other countries meet all the ideal requirements for these seven factors,” explains co-author Dr. Xiang Gao, an associate professor of nutritional sciences and director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Lab at Pennsylvania State University.
After examining questionnaires completed by 74, 701 Chinese adults about their overall health, the researchers managed to identify five health patterns that the participants followed, with 19 percent of the participants maintaining a good cardiovascular health score over the course of the study. From this finding, they found that people who followed these factors had a 79 percent lower chance of developing heart disease in the future than those who maintained a low cardiovascular health score.
The researchers also tested to see if one health factor was more prominent than the rest, but found no significant difference in risk prediction when one measure was removed.
“This suggests that overall cardiovascular health is still the most important thing and that one factor isn’t more important than the others,” Gao said. “It also helps confirm that these seven metrics are valid and a very useful tool for developing a strategy for cardiovascular disease prevention.”
How to improve your cardiovascular health
Get a head start in improving cardiovascular health by following the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7. Here are a few guidelines:
- Cut down on tobacco. Cigarette smoking is not only bad for your lungs, but it is also bad for your heart. Chemicals found in tobacco could damage your blood vessels and heart and could also reduce the oxygen found in your blood. This, in turn, would increase your blood pressure and heart rate because the heart has to work double-time to provide enough oxygen to the rest of the body.
- Eat healthy foods. A balanced diet can play a big role in improving heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Try to include healthy fruits and veggies while avoiding all the bad foods that are high in unhealthy fats that could clog the arteries with cholesterol.
- Get active. Regular physical activity can lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Even short bursts of exercise and aerobic activities throughout the week could promote healthy blood flow, leading to a much healthier heart.
- Lose weight. Being overweight can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Excess weight can also increase your risk of developing other chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.
Keep your heart healthy to live a healthier and happier life. For more news and studies on taking care of the heart, visit Heart.news.