The American Heart Association (AHA) has guidelines to help you maintain your heart health. They’re called Life’s Essential 8. Maintaining heart health can be challenging; the Essential 8 are meant to act as a rough guild to help you manage your cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Cardiovascular disease includes arrhythmia, heart attack, heart disease, heart failure, stroke and valve problems. It is the number one cause of death in the U.S. But, according to Dr. Leslie Cho, head of preventive cardiology at Cleveland Clinic, “Ninety percent of heart disease is preventable.”
You can stay healthy with diet, exercise, proper lifestyle and following your doctor’s advice. Now, the AHA has updated Life’s Essential 8 to address new science and modern problems. One of the large changes is that sleep has been added to the list of important heart factors for the first time. Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep for their health.
“There’s lots of data about Americans not getting enough sleep or having bad sleep, and we know a lot more about if you have poor sleep, that really increases your risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but also things like high blood pressure and heart failure,” said Dr. Cho.
Additionally, the guidelines now talk about the dangers of secondhand smoke and vaping. The AHA says that approximately one-third of children in the U.S. are exposed to vaping or secondhand smoke. Both have been linked to some cancers and a higher risk of heart disease. The new guidelines have added a way to assess diet and changed the cholesterol and blood sugar measures.
Guidelines change to reflect new research and changing behavior. In 2020, studies found that daily aspirin could be more harmful than helpful, so it was removed as a suggested preventative. It used to be recommended for people with high blood pressure. However, it can cause major bleeding, so doctors no longer recommend it. However, if you already take it, you shouldn’t stop taking it without speaking to your doctor first. Sudden cessation of a medication — even an over-the-counter one — can have side effects. If you take daily aspirin, it’s worth talking to your doctor about your risks.
“There has been a host of new evidence-based research available for clinicians in the past decade when it comes to aortic disease,” guideline writing committee chair Dr. Eric Isselbacher said in a news release.
When it comes to taking care of yourself, staying abreast of the current guidelines is essential. With the help of your doctor, you can make a plan to protect your heart health now and in the future.