How healthy is your heart? Understanding what factors affect heart health and how to improve them is critical to keeping a strong heart for life.
The American Heart Association (AMA) recommends using their Life’s Simple 7® guidelines as a tool to assess your risk and guide healthy lifestyle changes. While factors such as genetics, gender, race, and ethnicity may contribute to your risk, your habits, as outlined in Life’s Simple 7®, play a huge role in either protecting your heart or making it more vulnerable.
Here at ShiftSetGo, we’re proud of the way our program aligns with the Life’s Simple 7® guidelines. When you work with us to improve your health, you’ll likely improve many of the seven areas that influence your heart health.
What is Life’s Simple 7®?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death every year in the US. Sadly, every 36 seconds, someone dies from heart disease. This is especially upsetting because, in at least 80% of cases, heart disease could have been prevented through better lifestyle choices. Just because heart problems are common does not make them unavoidable. That is what Life’s Simple 7® is all about.
The Life’s Simple 7® guidelines define seven significant risk factors influencing heart health. Each area can be improved through lifestyle changes, meaning you can decrease your risk of heart disease as you choose healthy habits.
By addressing these seven lifestyle risk factors, you decrease your chance of developing a preventable heart condition. It’s as simple as that. And the ShiftSetGo program directly influences six of them.
Let’s take a closer look.
The food you eat is perhaps the number one factor determining heart health. As a recent scientific review noted:
“Poor diet quality is strongly associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality.”
It doesn’t get any clearer than that. For optimal protection from heart disease, your diet matters.
A quality diet protects the heart from oxidative stress, regulates blood lipids such as cholesterol, and reduces inflammation in the body. In addition, a healthy diet avoids high amounts of sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods, all of which negatively impact the heart.
The heart is a muscle, and just like any muscle, movement keeps it strong and functioning at its best.
Too many of us don’t get enough activity in our day. Only an estimated 1 in 5 adults meet the minimum recommendation of 150 minutes of heart-pumping movement each week. Committing to a regular exercise routine benefits the heart in so many ways, such as:
- Increasing cardiovascular efficiency
- Decreasing bad cholesterol
- Increasing good cholesterol
- Improving insulin sensitivity
- Aiding weight loss
- Lowering blood pressure
Even a modest amount of exercise can significantly impact health, which is why it is a cornerstone of the ShiftSetGo program.
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight automatically improves many of Life’s Simple 7® risk factors.
Intentional weight loss boosts cardiovascular health by:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving insulin sensitivity
- Decreasing inflammation
- Improving the health of your blood vessels
- Regulating blood lipids
- Improving quality of life
We’ve seen time and again the transformative potential of losing weight, not only on many health risk factors but also in the way lives are changed for the better. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight protects the heart for the long haul.
Manage Blood Pressure
Blood pressure measures how much force your heart must produce to pump blood through your body. If the blood vessels are stiff or blocked by fatty deposits, your heart must work harder to circulate blood. Over time, this extra pressure damages blood vessels and strains the heart.
If your blood pressure is high, healthy lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Weight loss through a healthy diet and regular exercise is a proven way to lower blood pressure and protect against future cardiovascular complications.
The impact of cholesterol on heart health is complex. Your body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to build cells, vitamins, and certain hormones. However, too much cholesterol, especially the “bad” kind, is not good for your heart.
Excess bad cholesterol (LDL) contributes to the build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of your arteries. Conversely, having high levels of good cholesterol (HDL) removes excess bad cholesterol from the blood to avoid build-up.
Eating well, exercising, and losing weight help keep cholesterol in a healthy range. Weight loss, in particular, is very beneficial for lowering high cholesterol. Losing 5-10% of total body weight is associated with a significant reduction in total and bad LDL cholesterol.
Reduce Blood Sugar
Elevated blood sugar levels are a common side effect of being overweight or obese. When blood sugar runs even slightly high, it damages the walls of the blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart.
Diabetes and prediabetes are both risk factors for heart disease. Reducing blood sugar levels can significantly improve the health of your heart and provide long-term protection from the damage excess sugar can cause.
Like with cholesterol, weight loss is one of the most effective ways to reduce blood sugar. When you lose weight, your cells become more sensitive to the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar levels. As a result, your body becomes better at maintaining a safe level of blood sugar.
Smoking is a danger to not only your heart but to every aspect of your health and well-being. If you’re struggling to quit smoking, talk to your doctor to find resources to help you quit.
The Bottom Line
The Life’s Simple 7® framework can guide you on your way to better heart health. Here at ShiftSetGo, we’re committed to helping our clients not only lose weight but improve every aspect of their long-term health and well-being.
Our program naturally addresses six of the seven Life’s Simple 7®. When you work with us to lose weight, don’t be surprised to find your cholesterol goes down, your blood pressure lowers, and your blood sugar improves. That’s the power of a weight loss program that works.