Following Lifes Simple 7 in your 30s can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure in your 40s.
Thats according to a new study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The study surveyed more than 30,000 adults in the United States, finding that 42 percent of participants had developed hypertension (high blood pressure) by the 9-year follow-up.
The researchers noted that for every point higher on the American Heart Associations Lifes Simple 7 score, the participant showed a 6 percent lower risk of high blood pressure.
Nearly half of all U.S. adults have hypertension, according to the American Heart Association. The condition is associated with stroke, heart attack, vision loss, and heart failure.
But experts say its also preventable, especially with early interventions.
Actions we take now are going to impact our health today and for years to come, said Caroline West Passerrello, MS, RDN, LDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The Lifes Simple 7 (LS7) is a metric model of cardiovascular health that was created by the American Heart Association.
The LS7 considers health behaviors and factors such as:
Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, ScM, FAHA, is chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University. Hes also president-elect of the American Heart Association and part of the group that developed the Lifes Simple 7 scale and criteria.
Lloyd-Jones said the group considered including stress and sleep into Lifes Simple 7 list, too.
The problem of course is that stress is everywhere. Its unavoidable. Its also very hard to measure stress, he told Healthline. We couldnt come up with a way to have a reliable measure of stress the way we have a reliable measure of blood pressure.
And stress is also experienced very differently by different people based on their background and many other factors, Lloyd-Jones added.
Nevertheless, stress plays a crucial role in heart health.
Stress is a sort of modifier on our ability to actually adhere to the Simple 7, said Lloyd-Jones. When were stressed, we tend not to eat as healthy, we dont engage in physical activity, and we dont sleep as well, which has implications for both weight and blood pressure.
You dont have to necessarily set out on an all-or-nothing mission.
Lloyd-Jones said you dont need to tackle all 7 to see significant health benefits.
Pick the thing that youre ready to work on today and improve it, and that will have real, tangible benefits for your health, he said.
Also, go the path of least resistance by choosing to change in whatever way works for you.
Its a really important part of this, Lloyd-Jones said. Some people will respond really well to apps on their phones that count calories for them or give them a limit on what they should eat every day. Other people do not respond well to that at all.
Lloyd-Jones said others may do better with an intermittent fasting approach where they seriously limit or restrict calories during certain times and then eat moderately for the remainder of the day.
He gave the example of eating primarily between noon and 8 p.m.
Its important to figure out what kind of person you are, he said.
Still, he argues the formula of success for most people is moderated eating with increased physical activity over time.
However, if youre a smoker, Lloyd-Jones suggests starting there first.
Smoking is not only a risk factor for chronic damage to the heart and lungs, but it is also a trigger, he said. Nicotine and other factors increase your blood pressure acutely, which puts more stress on your heart.
He noted that within a year of quitting smoking, you can bring your risk of heart attack and stroke down by half of what it was. Within a few years, it can be close to that of someone whos never smoked.
You get very real benefits, very quickly, Lloyd-Jones said.
Passerrello suggests following a Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
Experts say the DASH diet is among the easiest to follow and offers the most practical solutions to real-world eating scenarios.
DASH is a flexible approach to eating that doesnt discuss which foods to eat and not to eat, said Passerrello. Rather, DASH takes an overall dietary pattern approach and gives daily and even weekly goals of foods to include, and a few to limit.
Passerrellos list for heart healthy foods include:
By focusing on these foods, she said youll also be naturally limiting your sodium intake. Youll also be avoiding red and processed meats, refined grains, and sweets.
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