7 steps to be a star in heart health, from the Harvard Heart Letter

Want to be an American Ideal? You can star in this reality production (also known as daily life) by following the seven steps the American Heart Association (AHA) uses to define "ideal heart health." Making all seven part of your life can help you protect yourself from heart disease or stroke. But even following just one or two of the steps significantly reduces the chances of having heart disease, reports the April 2010 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

You qualify as someone with ideal heart health if you have not been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and

  1. have never smoked or quit more than a year ago
  2. maintain a healthy body weight (a body mass index under 25)
  3. spend at least 150 minutes a week doing moderate physical activity or 75 minutes a week doing vigorous activity
  4. eat a healthy diet
  5. keep your total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL
  6. keep your blood pressure under 120/80
  7. keep your fasting blood sugar under 100 mg/dL.

The Simple 7 are part of the AHA's strategy to meet its 2020 goal: "to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20%." The beauty of this approach is that its benefits extend far beyond the heart and arteries. It also works to fight other diseases that are largely caused by poor lifestyle choices—type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some types of cancer, to name just a few.

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