The American Heart Association has created a list they call Life’s Essential 8. The list is an overview of the eight most important things you can focus on to promote heart health today and for the long term. As we peruse the list, it’s easy to see that the essential eight are not individual bullet points on a list but part of a web of good decisions. When you improve in one area, you will see it positively impact other areas.
The essential eight listed by the American Heart Association are diet, exercise, quitting smoking, sleep, weight loss, cholesterol, diabetes, and blood pressure management. Below, we’ve outlined how interconnected these things are to show that conquering all eight categories can begin with just a few small steps.
Eat a Healthy Diet.
The food you put in your body directly impacts your overall health. If you primarily make poor choices that are high in sugar and processed fats, you’ll see and feel the impact of that on your weight as well as your overall health metrics like cholesterol and blood pressure. A healthy diet is a great place to start if you want to commit to healthy living.
Control Your Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, and Diabetes.
When you focus on eating lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, you’ll likely see your cholesterol and diabetes respond positively. Of course, there are some people for whom high cholesterol or blood pressure is a genetic trait, but even those people could benefit from eating better. Eating healthy is not a substitute for taking the medication prescribed to you by your cardiologist, but (depending on your case) it may be an excellent first step to weaning you off of medications.
Get Regular Exercise.
Your heart is a muscle, and just like your arm or leg muscles, your heart needs exercise to stay strong and healthy. Since you can’t train your heart to do a push-up, you exercise your heart muscle through cardiovascular exercises that raise your heart rate for a sustained period of time. Many people are confused about exercise, thinking it must be strenuous to be heart-healthy. The truth is many people see heart health benefits simply by walking or riding their bikes regularly.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight.
Exercise and a heart-healthy diet are essential tools for helping patients lose weight. As we shared above, many of these concepts are interconnected. Losing weight is critical to heart health, not only because it’s often a result of better habits but because very heavy bodies put undue stress on the heart muscle.
Prioritize Your Sleep
Research shows that good sleep hygiene is directly associated with weight loss. Patients who sleep well are more likely to lose weight and keep it off. And some studies show that a lack of sleep affects the types of food you crave. Poor sleep also makes you feel tired and less motivated to exercise. Sleep is one of the core concepts in our web of heart health.
Quit Smoking Once and For All.
Everyone knows that smoking can cause lung cancer. But did you know that it is directly linked to your heart health? Smoking tobacco products increases the amount of plaque buildup in your arteries which can raise your blood pressure and lead to heart disease. The average person tries to quit smoking 8-11 times before they are successful. If you’re a smoker, do yourself a favor and quit today.
If you were to choose a couple of things to tackle off of that list, it’s easy to see how some of the points in the web impact each of the other points. A healthy diet, exercise, and sleep habits are essential to healthy living. Combined with any medications your doctor has prescribed to you, these three points are a great place to start on your journey to heart health. Contact our team to meet with a doctor and learn more about your specific health risks.