You can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease by following this advice from the American Heart Association.
Maintaining a healthy heart is a challenge for many people. It requires dedication to a workout regimen, eating healthy food, and staying in touch with your doctor about your cardiovascular disease risk factors (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and more).
Cardiovascular disease ― which includes heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems ― is the No. 1 killer of Americans, according to Dr. Leslie Cho, the section head of preventive cardiology at Cleveland Clinic. Every 34 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies of cardiovascular disease.
This all may sound pretty scary, and it is. But “90% of heart disease is preventable,” Cho said. And those preventable measures are outlined in the American Heart Association’s recently updated Life’s Essential 8, which is described by AHA as “key measures for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health.”
Here’s what to know:
Sleep is now included in the heart health guidelines.
For the first time, sleep is included in the heart health guidelines because it is “vital to cardiovascular health,” according to the AHA. Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night to have an optimal immune system, for cell, blood vessel, and tissue restoration, to improve brain function, and to lessen the risk of chronic disease.
“There’s lots of data about Americans not getting enough sleep or having bad sleep, and we know a lot more about if you have poor sleep, that increases your risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but also things like high blood pressure and heart failure,” Cho said.
She added that studies show sleep deprivation can also increase cardiovascular risk factors like obesity and diabetes. “It’s a vicious cycle,” she said.
And there is even more risk for people with sleep apnea, a condition in which you stop breathing in your sleep. The condition has “been linked to things like high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and heart failure,” Cho said, noting that it’s important to talk to your doctors about your quality of sleep to see if you might be suffering from sleep apnea or another sleep issue.
Secondhand smoke and vaping are now official risk factors (though they were already well-known risks).
Quitting smoking has always been an important way to cut your risk of cardiovascular disease, but now the guidelines explicitly include the dangers of secondhand smoke and vaping.
According to the AHA, “about a third of U.S. children ages 3-11 are exposed to secondhand smoke or vaping,” and both are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer.
“In modern America, we’ve been led to believe that vaping is better than smoking, and that’s not true,” Cho said. Vaping can cause lung problems and cancer, and delivers nicotine, which is highly addictive, she said.