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Life’s ‘Simple 7’ to save your heart!

The American Heart Association, for the first time, has defined what it means to have ideal cardiovascular health, identifying seven health and behaviour factors that impact health and quality of life. We know that even simple, small changes can make a big difference in living a better life. Known as “Life’s Simple 7,” these steps can help add years to your life.

1. Don’t smoke;

Cigarette smoke constricts blood vessels and slows circulation. The carbon monoxide from smoke also creates free radicals that damage the endothelium and promote plaque buildup. In addition, nicotine causes the growth of new blood vessels inside existing blood vessels that provide nutrients to plaque.

2. Maintain a healthy weight;

Not only does excess weight increase the odds of developing high cholesterol and blood pressure, it also triggers inflammation. Losing just 5—10 pounds can benefit artery health.

3. Engage in regular physical activity;

Exercise helps improve heart health, and can even reverse some heart disease risk factors. Like all muscles, the heart becomes stronger as a result of exercise, so it can pump more blood through the body with every beat and continue working at maximum level, if needed, with less strain.

4. Eat a healthy diet;

Adopting a heart-healthy nutrition strategy can help reduce total and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, and reduce body weight.

5. Manage blood pressure;

The higher your blood pressure, the more your arteries swell and stretch. This injures the endothelium, causing plaque to accumulate at a faster rate.

6. Take charge of cholesterol;

High levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol contribute to the buildup of arterial plaque. But that’s not the whole story. Low levels of HDL also play a role, since this “good” cholesterol is thought to help eliminate LDL from the body.

7. Keep blood sugar, or glucose, at healthy levels.

High blood sugar drives inflammation in the endothelium and slows blood flow.

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