People who strongly adhere to a set of cardiovascular health metrics may live close to a decade longer than those who don’t, new research suggests.
The study, published in Circulation, found people with higher scores for cardiovascular health lived up to nine years longer on average than those with the lowest scores. The scores measure adherence to a set of lifestyle behaviors and health factors developed by the American Heart Association known as Life’s Essential 8. They include:
1. Eating a healthy diet
The AHA advises making smart choices and swaps to build an overall healthy eating style.
- Enjoy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins, skinless poultry, fish and seafood.
- Limit sweetened drinks, alcohol, sodium, red and processed meats, refined carbohydrates like added sugars and processed grain foods, full-fat dairy products, highly processed foods, tropical oils like coconut and palm.
- Avoid trans-fat and partially hydrogenated oils (found in some commercial baked goods and fried foods).
Watching your calories, eating smaller portions, and learning how to read and understand food labels can also help you make healthier choices.
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2. Being physically active
Adults should get a weekly total of at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, spread throughout the week, according to the AHA. People who were most physically active lived 4.6 years longer than those who were least active, according to the study.
Here are the tips for success when it comes to physical activity:
- Set Goals: Set realistic goals and make small, lasting changes to set yourself up for success.
- Keep Going: Once you reach these goals, don’t stop. Gradually increase your activity and intensity to gain even more health benefits.
- Walk More: There are many ways to get active. You may find walking the easiest way to start.
- Stay Active: Not only can it help you feel, think, sleep and live better, staying active also improves overall quality of life. Every active minute counts toward your goal.
- Add It Up: Find ways to move more throughout your daily routine, whether it’s at work, on your commute or at home. Every active minute counts toward your goal.
- Make a Habit: Do something active every day at about the same time so it becomes a regular habit. Put it on your schedule so you’re less likely to miss a day.
3. Not using tobacco products
Quitting smoking dramatically decreases your chances of developing heart disease, lung cancer, etc. Compared to people who smoked the most, those who did not smoke lived 7.4 years longer, according to the study.
The following are tips for success:
- Deal with Urges: Whether physical or mental, learn your triggers and make a plan to address them. Avoid situations that make you want to smoke or use tobacco until you’re confident that you can handle them.
- Get Active: Physical activity can help you manage the stress and cravings when quitting. You’ll feel better, too.
- Handle Stress: Learn other healthy ways to manage the stress of quitting.
- Get Support: A buddy system or support program can help you with some of the common struggles of quitting. 1-800-QuitNow
- Stick with It: Quitting tobacco takes a lot of willpower. Reward yourself when you reach milestones and forgive yourself if you take a step backward. Get back on course as soon as possible to stay on track and kick the habit for good.
4. Getting the right amount of sleep
Poor sleeping habits affects so much of your health including cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and dementia, depression, high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol and obesity. Those who slept the recommended seven to nine hours per night lived five years longer than those who slept too much or not enough, the study notes.
Here’s how to improve your sleep routine:
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