There’s a lot of advice out there on how to live a healthier, longer life – but actually accomplishing that can feel out-of-reach for some people. The American Heart Association provides a realistic science-based foundation to help people achieve success. Their formula focuses on four lifestyle behaviors and four health factors that make up eight key components for better cardiovascular health, it’s called Life’s Essential 8.
Here are the eight actions the American Heart Association recommends:
- Manage high blood pressure – If high blood pressure is left untreated, it can cause heart disease and stroke. A diet low in sodium, regular exercise, and medications can help keep your blood pressure in check.
- Control cholesterol levels – High cholesterol levels can cause fat to build up in your arteries and clog. A diet low in saturated and trans fats, as well as medications, can help lower your cholesterol level.
- Reduce blood sugar levels – High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels. Long-term, uncontrolled blood sugar levels with type 2 diabetes increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Diet, exercise, and medications can help maintain safe blood sugar levels.
- Increase daily activity – Exercise has a number of health benefits, including helping you reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and cholesterol, and help you maintain a healthy weight. All of these factors help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet – A diet low in sodium and saturated fats and high in fiber and plant-based foods can lower your risk of developing heart disease. It will also have the added benefit of helping keep you at a healthy weight.
- Lose weight – Body weight and obesity are linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and overall cardiovascular health. Maintaining a BMI under 30 will help you decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Quit using tobacco – Tobacco use can harm your blood cells and decrease the function and structure of your blood vessels and heart. This damage will increase your risk of getting plaque buildup in your vessels, which causes a heart attack or stroke.
- Get more sleep – Lack of sleep can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure and other heart-related problems. Adults need 7-9 hours of consistent sleep each night to help improve brain function, boost immune system and reduce chronic disease risk.
The eye-opening thing about the eight actions is – you only need a doctor for a few of them. Most people can make a big impact on their own health by making better lifestyle choices.
“I agree with the American Heart Association,” says Dr. D.P. Suresh, Cardiologist and Medical Director at the Florence Wormwald Heart and Vascular Institute at St. Elizabeth. “A social, lifestyle approach is essential to reduce the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease.” “Many social factors, including the essential eight, impact heart health,” says Dr. Suresh. “We must look at our physical health, but also at our mental, emotional and psychological health. They all have a significant impact on heart health.”
Make your heart health a priority. Do you need a partner in caring for your heart? Call (859) 287-3045 to schedule an appointment with a St. Elizabeth cardiologist.