7 things you can do today for a healthier heart tomorrow

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Did you know that above and beyond any other disease, having high blood pressure leads to the most dramatic drop in your life expectancy?

That’s right, according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, living with high blood pressure is far more likely to steal years off your life than health problems like diabetes, liver damage or even respiratory issues.

But there is good news…

That very same research discovered that raising your score on a simple test in middle-age could pay off big, protecting you from high blood pressure for years down the road.

It’s called Life’s Simple 7.

If you haven’t heard of it before, Life’s Simple 7 is a scale that measures your cardiovascular health to predict your risk of developing blood pressure problems by rating you on a number of medical and lifestyle factors.

These include:

  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Your diet
  • Whether or not you currently or have ever smoked
  • Your weekly level of moderate and vigorous physical activity
  • Your blood pressure reading
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Blood sugar

It then combines all of the factors into a single metric and spits out a result from 0 to 14 — the higher your score, the lower your risk of heart and blood pressure problems. The lower your score, the more danger you’re in.

Rankings go like this:

  • 0 to 4 is poor
  • 5 to 9 is average
  • 10 to 14 ideal

And after following almost 3,000 people for nine years, researchers at the American Heart Association now say that for every one point you raise your score, you lower your risk of high blood pressure later by 6 percent!

Yes, a 6 percent reduced risk of blood pressure problems for each additional point you score on Life’s Simple 7.

This means that achieving a better score on Life’s Simple 7 in middle-age could keep you from suffering from hypertension as you get older.

So how do you raise your score?

Well, let’s break it down by the factors the test measures…

#1 — Body mass index

Since BMI plays a role in your Simple 7 results, dropping any extra weight you’ve been carrying can help to significantly boost your overall score. Weight loss tricks you can try include:

  • Moving more to rev up your metabolism
  • Eating fewer carbs and more fat
  • Adding protein to your diet to reduce blood sugar swings that cause cravings
  • Getting more sleep

#2 — Diet

Raising your diet score on Life’s Simple 7 involves eating more fresh fruits, veggies and fish. Simple enough, right?

#3 — Smoking

If you’ve never smoked, congratulations! You’ll have the highest score in this category.

However, if you’re a current smoker, you can raise your Simple 7 score by reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke (or better yet, kicking the habit completely).

#4 — Physical activity

The higher the number of minutes you spend in moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, the higher your Simple 7 score. So, get out there and get moving!

Moderate activity could include walking and gardening, while running and swimming count toward your level of vigorous exercise.

#5 — Blood pressure

There’s no doubt that maintaining healthy blood pressure levels up your Simple 7 score. And while all of the lifestyle changes we’ve discussed so far will certainly help you do that, I also recommend adding in supplements that support your efforts to keep your blood pressure levels within a normal range including:

  • Grape seed extract Its heart healthy polyphenols activate the nitric oxide in the lining of your blood vessels to help them widen and improve blood flow.
  • Vitamin K2 Scientific studies have proven that taking K2 can lower your risk of blood vessels stiffening calcium deposits by 52 percent.
  • Pterostilbene Found in blueberries, pterostilbene is an antioxidant that helps block the creation of Angiotensin II an enzyme that stiffens the walls of your blood vessels and triggers a hormone that increases the amounts of sodium and water retained by your body.
  • Green tea extract Phytochemicals in green tea called catechins have been shown to support against oxidative stress to better support your cardiovascular health.

#6 — Cholesterol

Losing weight, giving up smoking, exercising more and eating more healthily are all great ways to lower your cholesterol.

Additionally, you can grab some cholesterol-reducing power from supplements like:

  • Red Yeast Rice This powerful compound is used in traditional Chinese medicine to bring cholesterol levels under control and even some prescription cholesterol drugs are based on ingredients in red yeast rice.
  • Niacin Also known as Vitamin B3, niacin may help you lower your LDL (bad cholesterol levels) while raising your good (HDL) cholesterol.

#7 — Blood sugar

For better blood sugar control, in addition to all of the lifestyle changes we’ve already discussed, simply add in more fiber to your diet and focus on managing your stress levels.

Check yourself

To see how you stack up on Life’s Simple 7, go to My Life Check from the American Heart Association. It only takes a couple of minutes to complete to find out your risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

Once you know where you stand, you can begin to implement the tips above to raise your score, reduce your risks and stop hypertension from stealing years off your life.