A few good choices can help you feel better and stay healthier!
Getting diagnosed with health problems such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol is a wake-up call that it’s time to make major lifestyle changes. The good news is, a few simple changes can help you avoid such a diagnosis in the first place.
By focusing on seven key health factors and behaviors – what the American Heart Association calls Life’s Simple 7® – you can keep your heart healthy, lower your risks of heart disease and stroke, and improve your quality of life. This is the first in a series on Life’s Simple 7. The series will cover each one of Life's Simple 7 keys to prevention with steps you can take to live a healthier lifestyle.
“We’re all born with a large stock of good health; it’s up to us to protect it with good choices about our health,” said Donald M Lloyd-Jones, M.D., professor of Preventive Medicine and Medicine-Cardiology, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Life’s Simple 7 focuses on the seven factors and behaviors that have the biggest impact on your heart health, both on their own and taken together.
- Lose weight/maintain healthy weight
- Eat better
- Get active
- Manage blood pressure
- Reduce blood sugar
- Stop smoking
- Control cholesterol
Making positive changes in any one of these areas can make a difference in your health, said Dr. Lloyd-Jones, a volunteer with the American Heart Association. And emerging research shows the results are much more dramatic when the seven factors work together.
“Small changes matter,” he said. “If you can lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight, you can reduce your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.”
Making changes before you develop a chronic condition such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol is critical. While medication may reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke, it can’t eliminate the risk.
“There’s a price to pay for having developed the condition,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones said. “We can reduce your risk, but we can never restore you to low-risk.”
By focusing on Life’s Simple 7, people may be able increase the number of years they feel healthy, rather than managing chronic disease, Dr. Lloyd-Jones said.
“A stroke can be absolutely devastating and take a toll on a person’s quality of life,” he said. “In addition to avoiding those, we want to preserve a person’s healthy longevity.”
Educate Yourself with a Visit to Your Healthcare Provider
Taking action to keep your heart healthy is important because heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S.
But many Americans aren’t aware that they may be at risk.
An American Heart Association survey of U.S. adults showed most people don’t connect important risk factors, such as poor diet and physical inactivity, with heart disease and stroke.
The first step to doing that is getting a full picture of your health by knowing your Life’s Simple 7 numbers. Some measures, such as blood sugar and cholesterol, will require a trip to the doctor for a health screening. Others, such as blood pressure and weight, you may be able to measure at home or your local pharmacy. You can use this simple Life's Simple 7 tracker to write down all of your data before taking the My Life Check Assessment. Bring this downloadable tracker with you to your appointment with your healthcare provider and write down the numbers you get from your screenings, then you’re ready to enter all the information you need into the My Life Check Assessment online. You can also take the assessment on your mobile device while you’re at your appointment!
Take Action and Get your Heart Score
Once you’ve got your numbers handy, use the My Life Check online assessment tool to measure your heart health. Your results will show where you stand regarding Life’s Simple 7 and will include an action plan customized to your lifestyle and health outlook.
You’ll also have an opportunity to make a pledge to set a goal for extra support and motivation.
“It’s never too late,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones said. “Each one of Life’s Simple 7 is modifiable and controllable. All you need are the tools and the understanding that you can change it.”
- Download or print the My Life Check Life's Simple 7 Tracker
- Take the assessment
- What Are My Risks For Getting Heart Disease Infographic