The American Heart Association has advised that optimal cardiovascular health is based on seven risk factors (Life’s Simple 7) that can be improved through lifestyle changes: physical activity, weight, diet quality, blood glucose, blood pressure, smoking status, and cholesterol. In addition to these seven factors, we feel that additional emphasis needs to be given to stress and sleep. Stress & Sleep are more difficult to measure but have a profound impact on cardiovascular and overall health. Paying attention to Life’s Simple 7 factors, sleep and stress will have a meaningful impact on your health & longevity.
Physical Activity: Move more. Participate in at least 30 min of moderate activity 5 times a week (brisk waking, gardening, tennis, riding your bike, cleaning). The goal is to move more and sit less.
Diet quality: Eat a colorful diet of fruits and vegetables with lean meat and fish. Limit or avoid sugar sweetened drinks. Read nutrition labels to decrease salt and added sugar and to be aware of portion sizes.
Weight: Decrease calories that you take in and increase calories that you burn through physical activity to lose excess weight.
Blood Pressure: Know your numbers, track your blood pressure readings. Most people do not know that they have high blood pressure since they don’t have any symptoms-which is why it is known as the ‘silent killer’. See your healthcare provider for regular checkups. Limit your intake of high salt foods like pizza, lunch meat, and canned soup and resist the urge to reach for the saltshaker. Too much salt can cause blood pressure to rise.
Cholesterol: Know your levels and track them over time. Increase fiber in your diet and decrease animal protein. Fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans and lentils), and whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice).
Blood Sugar: Understand blood sugar and know your numbers. Having too much sugar in the blood for long periods of time can cause serious health problems if not treated. Most people may not know they have high blood sugar so periodic evaluation with your physician is necessary.
Smoking: If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Sleep: Poor sleep results in increased blood pressure, can lead to weight gain, can affect your immune system, and can lead to irritability, depression and anxiety. Not sleeping well can give you a feeling of being fatigued or tired all the time.
Stress: Ongoing chronic stress can affect your overall wellness resulting in headaches, insomnia, irritability, or decreasing your productivity at work. It can cause health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes or worsen health problems that you already have.
The first step towards improving lifestyle choices is taking stock of what you are currently doing. Use this list to review your current patterns and make adjustments to improve overall health & wellness.