Wednesday 16 August 2017

Seven simple steps to a healthier, longer life!

Managing blood pressure and cholesterol, getting active and eating healthier are among the Life's Simple 7 points put out by the American Heart Association

Living the best life possible is a goal worth chasing. No matter what path you follow, it’s best lived in good health and with plenty of vigour. However, not everyone lives their life with longevity in mind. And while investing in the future may seem to be a waste of time in the early decades of your life, by middle age you’ll probably begin to wonder what your golden years will look like.
Truth be told, it’s the decades preceding those golden years that are important when it comes to laying the foundation for a long, healthy life. This is why the American Heart Association created Life’s Simple 7, a campaign highlighting the value of establishing healthy habits early in life so the rewards can be felt later on. This is especially significant since, according to Statistics Canada projections, one in four Canadians will be over 65 by 2031.
Life’s Simple 7 refers to seven lifestyle habits that, when followed, not only keep your heart healthy but also reduce the risk of other illnesses and the need for both short- and long-term medical care. It stands to reason that maintaining a healthy heart is a key factor in remaining free of the chronic diseases that whittle away at the quality of life. Not to mention that, according to the Heart Research Institute, heart disease costs the Canadian economy $20.9 billion every year and ranks as Canada’s number one killer, with 33,600 lives lost annually. 
Proof of the power of the Simple 7 is shown in a recently published Chicago-based study that examined the medical history of 25,804 men and women from middle age until they turned 65. Their goal wasn’t just to determine whether good cardiovascular health led to a longer life — that’s already been well established. What the researchers wanted to determine was whether that longer life was spent in good health.
What they discovered is that ignoring the Simple 7 in young adulthood and middle age impacts health up to 43 years later, hastening the onset of chronic disease by an average of 4.5 years compared to those who lived a healthy-heart lifestyle. And that’s not the only good news for people who invested in their health early on — the study found that those people also benefited from a longer life, living 3.9 years longer than those who ignored two or more of the Simple 7 points.
“Individuals in favourable cardiovascular health at younger ages not only live a longer life but live a healthier life and a greater proportion of life free of morbidity,” said the authors of the study.
It is also worth noting that the benefit of longevity is particularly significant for men whose life expectancy is typically shorter than women’s.
However, that Chicago-based study was not the only one to herald the benefits of the Simple 7. According to an article in the Journal of the American Heart Association, which reviewed Medicaid claims made by 6,263 Americans aged 65 or older, those who scored poorly on two or more of the Simple 7 accounted for over half the costs related to hospitalized care and one-third of the costs related to non-hospitalized claims.
So, where do you start when it comes to following the Simple 7? Fortunately, many of the seven points can be managed with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Eating more whole grains, fruits and veggies and less processed food helps keep cholesterol, blood sugar and excess weight in check. So does accumulating 150 minutes of exercise per week. Together, they create a one-two punch lifestyle that pays off now and in the future.
When it comes to exercise, it doesn’t take a sweat-inducing workout to reap the benefits of living a healthy life. Moving more every day — be it going for a walk, swim or bike ride, taking a fitness class or hitting the gym — keeps the heart healthy. This is just as important for kids, youth and young adults as it is for people who are middle-aged and older. An early investment in a healthy lifestyle definitely pays off during those later decades when health is more likely to be compromised. This lifestyle also helps reduce the economic burden on a healthcare system already bursting at the seams. So, in the case of your health, an ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure.
Life’s Simple 7
Manage blood pressure
• When your blood pressure stays within a healthy range, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys.
Control cholesterol
• High cholesterol contributes to plaque build-up, which can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke.
Reduce blood sugar
• Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
Get active
• Daily physical activity helps manage blood pressure, blood sugar and stress, and increases your length and quality of life.
Eat better
• When you follow a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances of feeling good and staying healthy – for life!
Lose weight
• When you shed extra fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton.
Stop smoking
• Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

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