Harvard Heart Letter

Realizing the promise of Life's Simple 7

Making smart changes in behavior prevents damage to healthy and not-so-healthy arteries.

Every day, you make dozens of health-related decisions that influence the long-term well-being of your heart and arteries, from what you put in your mouth to how often you move. These lifestyle choices, along with factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, may promote plaque buildup inside your arteries. Over time, that plaque (which contains fat, fibrous tissue, and often calcium deposits) may block blood flow, setting the stage for a heart attack or stroke.

Risk factors and artery calcification

Using a form of imaging called coronary artery calcium (CAC) scanning, doctors can detect specks of calcium in the walls of the heart's arteries and derive a score that corresponds to the risk of future heart disease. Recently, researchers used CAC scoring to find out whether making a few key behavior changes could have a concrete benefit for cardiovascular health even before overt signs of disease appear. They reported their findings in the March 2015 American Heart Journal.

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