What is cardiovascular health? What are the criteria to meet in order to be considered as “heart-healthy?” At last, the American Heart Association (AHA) has sought to answer these questions. The health group has defined poor, intermediate, and ideal cardiovascular health status based on 7 simple measures.
Why do we need such measures? Because what we believe about our health is not necessarily the reality. An AHA survey, for example, found that 39% (almost 4 out of 10) Americans believe that they have an ideal heart health status. However, 54% of these people had been assesses as having at least 1 risk factor for heart disease. Thus, AHA decided once and for all to try and define clear criteria that tell the truth about our health.
The seven health measures (Life’s Simple 7) as defined by AHA are:
- Never smoked or quit more than one year ago;
- Body mass index less than 25 kg/m2;
- Physical activity of at least 150 minutes (moderate intensity) or 75 minutes (vigorous intensity) each week;
- Four to five of the key components of a healthy diet consistent with current American Heart Association guideline recommendations;
- Total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL;
- Blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg;
- Fasting blood glucose less than 100 mg/dL.
And most, if not all of these measures can actually be met through lifestyle and behaviour changes.
This is one of the first steps in AHA’s efforts to achieve a new goal for 2020, that is, improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.
According to Dr. Clyde W. Yancy, AHA president:
“To date, there has been great success in reducing disability and death from heart disease and stroke in part through aggressive improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases and in limited uptake of measures to prevent heart disease and stroke. We achieved our 2010 goal of reducing death by heart disease and stroke by 25 percent — earlier and by a wider margin than we had targeted. However, too many people continue to have unrelenting exposure to known important risk factors for heart disease and stroke to the point that we are likely to begin seeing an increase in these diseases — and at an earlier age. That is a cause for alarm and a trend we need to stop now.”
In the AHA site, you can access Life’s Simple 7 (Seven Simple Steps to Live Better) and take the following steps:
- Stop smoking
- Lose weight
- Get active
- Eat better
- Control cholesterol
- Manage blood pressure
- Reduce blood sugar
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