The AHA defines ideal cardiovascular health based on seven risk factors in a model they call Life's Simple 7. These metrics include four modifiable behaviors, also referring to things that could lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. These factors are quitting smoking, eating healthily, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. In addition, the AHA included three other measures, namely blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, which should be kept in check to keep your heart in tip-top shape.
In their study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open, graded each of these metrics and classified them into three categories: poor (0 points), intermediate (1 point) and ideal (2 points).
"Only about 2% of people in the United States and other countries meet all the ideal requirements for these seven factors," explains co-author Dr. Xiang Gao, an associate professor of nutritional sciences and director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Lab at Pennsylvania State University.
After examining questionnaires completed by 74, 701 Chinese adults about their overall health, the researchers managed to identify five health patterns that the participants followed, with 19 percent of the participants maintaining a good cardiovascular health score over the course of the study. From this finding, they found that people who followed these factors had a 79 percent lower chance of developing heart disease in the future than those who maintained a low cardiovascular health score.
The researchers also tested to see if one health factor was more prominent than the rest, but found no significant difference in risk prediction when one measure was removed.
"This suggests that overall cardiovascular health is still the most important thing and that one factor isn't more important than the others," Gao said. "It also helps confirm that these seven metrics are valid and a very useful tool for developing a strategy for cardiovascular disease prevention."
Get a head start in improving cardiovascular health by following the AHA's Life's Simple 7. Here are a few guidelines:
Keep your heart healthy to live a healthier and happier life. For more news and studies on taking care of the heart, visit Heart.news.