When it comes to heart health, there are only a few key elements that you need to integrate into your lifestyle that can contribute to a stronger, healthier heart.   Last year, the American Heart Association (AHA) crafted a list of essential guidelines  to promote optimal heart health.

 

Life’s Simple Seven ™, as the list has been titled, is a checklist that everyone can use to achieve better cardiovascular health.  A nationwide study by AHA of almost 18,000 adults showed those who followed at least five of the guidelines to have a 55% lower risk of death over five years than those who followed none.  While even seven guidelines may seem like a small checklist to follow, an AHA study reports that “less than 1% [of Americans] meet all seven of [the] criteria,” compared to the 35% of Americans who report that they are in good health.

The checklist urges people to meet the following seven guidelines:

Get active:  It is recommended that you get 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise.

Control cholesterol: Desirable cholesterol levels fall under 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL)

Eat better:  Load your diet with foods that are high in nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, but low in substances like saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

Manage blood pressure: Normal blood pressure levels are less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic, or 120 over 80.

Lose weight:  Anyone with a body mass index, or BMI, of 25 and higher is considered overweight.  You can calculate your BMI with the following formula:

[(your weight in pounds) X 703] ÷ (your height in inches X your height in inches)

Reduce blood sugar:  Monitor blood sugar levels.  According to AHA, people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease.

Stop smoking:  Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease and it increases the risk of excessive build up in the arteries, which in turn can lead to heart attacks.