8 is the new number for ideal heart health

American Heart Association

What better present to give yourself this holiday season than better health?

Eight things can help, according to the American Heart Association’s new framework for ideal cardiovascular health called Life’s Essential 8. Based on 12 years of research, the identified factors are divided between four behaviors and four measurements. Together, they can help reduce the risks of major problems such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Life’s Essential 8 are the key measures for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health. They are:

  1. Eat better: Focus attention on your overall eating pattern rather than mere calorie-counting. Include whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds and cooking with olive or canola oil.
  2. Be more active: Adults should get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. Children should have 60 minutes every day, including play and structured activities.
  3. Quit tobacco: Inhaling nicotine products, whether cigars and cigarettes or e-cigarettes and vaping, is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The secondhand effects are also considerable.
  4. Get healthy sleep: Adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Children require more, depending on their age. Adequate sleep promotes healing, improves brain function and lowers the risk for chronic diseases.
  5. Manage weight: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, quantified by the body mass index, has many benefits, including reducing the risk for several chronic diseases. Calculate your BMI with online aids or consult a health care professional.
  6. Control cholesterol: High levels of non-HDL, or “bad,” cholesterol can lead to heart disease. Your health care professional can measure your “bad” cholesterol number with a blood test.
  7. Manage blood sugar: Most consumed food is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use as energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
  8. Manage blood pressure: Keeping your blood pressure within acceptable ranges promotes health and lowers risk of stroke and heart attack. Levels less than 120/80 mm Hg are optimal. Consult your health care professional and consider getting a home blood pressure monitor.

Now that you know about Life’s Essential 8, use My Life Check, an online tool to assess your own heart health and better understand your risk for heart disease and stroke.