Harvard Heart Letter

Aiming for ideal improves heart health

Positive markers mean better heart health, less disease.

In 2010, the American Heart Association (AHA) added a new page to its playbook against the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Instead of focusing solely on cardiovascular disease, the AHA is broadening its mission to include improving cardiovascular health.

It's a timely shift. The impressive decline in death rates from heart disease since 1970 is threatened by climbing rates of obesity and diabetes, the aging of the population, and early signs of heart disease in adolescents.

The AHA defines "ideal cardiovascular health" as the combination of four healthy behaviors and three health measurements:

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