For years, the American Heart Association has listed seven essential factors for heart health. This year, they’ve added an eighth: sleep.
There have been other updates, so it’s a good time to review the eight essential elements of good heart health.
#1. Eat right
Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, and lean animal proteins like poultry, fish, and seafood. Limit your consumption of alcohol, sweets, refined grains, processed meats, red meat, full-fat dairy products, tropical oils, and highly processed foods.
#2. Exercise regularly
Rack up 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, plus two strength training sessions. Sit less throughout your day, making a point of getting up and being active often. Kids and teens need 60 minutes each day of physical activity.
#3. Don’t smoke
Smoking is the most common preventable cause of death in the United States. The new guidance from the American Heart Association includes second-hand exposure to smoke from both smoking and vaping. They point out that about half of kids 3-11 in the U.S. are exposed to second-hand smoke or vapor.
#4. Sleep 7-9 hours each night
Getting too little sleep or poor quality sleep is associated with an increased risk of cardiac disease, dementia, other cognitive risks, obesity, depression, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and more. Good sleep leads to improved mood and energy, healing, and a strengthened immune system.
#5. Keep a healthy weight
When you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, you reduce your risk of many diseases, including heart disease. Eating right and staying active can help you reach this goal. Ask your doctor for support if you have trouble getting to and maintaining a healthy weight.
#6. Control cholesterol
Eat right, exercise regularly, and don’t smoke to keep your cholesterol on track. Ask your doctor to help you track and manage your cholesterol.
#7. Control your blood sugar
High blood sugar is a sign of diabetes. If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes, you might not know your blood sugar level. An A1c test can tell you whether you need to be concerned
#8. Manage your blood pressure
Track your blood pressure and take action to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. Eating right, staying active, sleeping well, avoiding smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight all help to keep blood pressure in check. There are also some medications that can help.