My Life Check® was designed by the American Heart Association with the goal of improved health by educating the public on how best to live. These measures have one unique thing in common: any person can make these changes, the steps are not expensive to take and even modest improvements to your health will make a big difference. Start with one or two. This simple, seven step list has been developed to deliver on the hope we all have--to live a long, productive healthy life.
1. GET ACTIVE
If you get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day (like brisk walking), five times per week, you can almost guarantee yourself a healthier and more satisfying life while lowering your risks for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Parents, your children need 60 minutes a day–every day–so when you get active, you’re also modeling healthy living for the next generation.
2. CONTROL CHOLESTEROL
Eat healthy foods that are low in cholesterol, trans fats and saturated fats. A diet high in fiber also helps keep cholesterol levels controlled. Schedule a cholesterol screening and stay current on your health check-ups. If your cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher, take action by first talking to your health care provider.
3. EAT BETTER
A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet (foods low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars, and foods high in whole grain fiber, lean protein, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables) you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy.
4. MANAGE BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys which keeps you healthier longer. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can injure or kill you. It's sometimes called "the silent killer" because it has no symptoms. Eating a heart-healthy diet (including reduced sodium), enjoying regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, limiting alcohol, and avoiding tobacco smoke can keep your blood pressure at healthy levels.
5. LOSE WEIGHT
If you have too much fat — especially if a lot of it is at your waist — you're at higher risk for such health problems as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. Body mass index (BMI) assesses your body weight relative to height. It's a useful, indirect measure of body composition because it correlates highly with body fat in most people. If your body mass index is 25.0 or higher, you will benefit by bringing your number down below 25. (Click here to calculate your BMI.)
6. REDUCE BLOOD SUGAR
If your fasting blood sugar level is below 100, you are in the healthy range. If not, your results could indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes. Lowered blood sugar helps protect your vital organs. When you reduce excessive sugars, you are giving yourself the best chance for a healthy life. The American Heart Association considers diabetes one of the six major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. To keep your blood sugar in check, you should reduce consumption of simple sugars (found in soda, candy and sugary desserts), get regular physical activity, and take medications or insulin if prescribed for you.
7. STOP SMOKING
Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. You can do whatever it takes to quit. One day at a time, one hour at a time, you can learn to replace the craving for cigarettes with healthier options. (Visit the American Heart Associations Quit Smoking website for resources.)
Heart Health by the Numbers
• Nearly four in ten American adults believe they have ideal heart health (39%). Less than one in ten believes they have poor heart health (5%).
• The majority of adults have visited a doctor or healthcare professional within the past year (80%).
• 70% of Americans report being told to make lifestyle changes by a doctor or other healthcare professional.
• One third report being told each to exercise more (35%) and that they are overweight (33%).
• One in five adults report currently being a smoker (19%).
• Fewer than two in ten American adults (15%) achieve AHA’s recommended levels of moderate aerobic exercise, which is 150+ total minutes per week.
• For more than four of ten adults, eating 9 servings of fruits and veggies (44%) or eating fish at least 2 times per week (45%) is a rare activity.
Information courtesy of The American Heart Association