Harvard Women's Health Watch

Prolonging your life with seven healthy habits

Practicing seven healthy lifestyle habits might reduce your risk of dying from heart disease or any other cause. Unfortunately, few women are following all of these habits, according to a study published online March 16 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The American Heart Association calls these steps the "Simple 7": exercising at least 5 days a week, lowering cholesterol to under 200 mg/dL, eating a heart-healthy diet, managing blood pressure, keeping body mass index under 25, reducing blood sugar, and not smoking. The study, which used survey information from nearly 45,000 adults (almost half of whom were women), found that people who met six or more of these goals had a 51 percent lower risk of death from any cause, and a 76 percent lower risk of death from heart disease compared to people who met one or fewer goals. Yet only 10 percent of people surveyed said they were meeting six of the goals, and less than 2 percent were achieving all seven goals. The good news from this study is that there is a lot we can do to help ourselves if we make important lifestyle changes, such as eating right, getting regular exercise, and working with our health care providers to make sure our blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels are within a healthy range.

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