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Happy Heart Month!

Tomorrow is the start of Heart Month. As a heart disease survivor, raising awareness of heart disease and covering the importance of heart health is near and dear to me.

After my heart attack in 2009, I was connected with the American Heart Association (AHA) where I learned many things about cardiovascular disease that I had no idea about before - that heart disease is the number one killer of not only men, but also women in the United States, and that 80% is preventable with lifestyle changes.

In 2022, the AHA replaced Life's Simple 7 with Life's Essential 8. The primary updates were to add sleep as a component of heart health, create a new guide to assess diet, account for vaping and secondhand smoke, and adjust cholesterol and blood sugar measures.

The eight factors are:

  1. Eat Better - Aim for an overall healthy eating pattern that includes whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, and seeds.

  2. Be More Active - Adults should get 2 ½ hours of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. Kids should have 60 minutes every day.

  3. Quit Tabacco - Use of inhaled nicotine delivery products, which includes traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping, is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., including about a third of all deaths from heart disease.

  4. Get Healthy Sleep - Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Adequate sleep promotes healing, improves brain function and reduces the risk for chronic diseases.

  5. Manage Weight - Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight has many benefits.

  6. Control Cholesterol - High levels of non-HDL, or “bad,” cholesterol can lead to heart disease.

  7. Manage Blood Sugar - Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use as energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. As part of testing, monitoring hemoglobin A1c can better reflect long-term control in people with diabetes or prediabetes.

  8. Manage Blood Pressure - Keeping your blood pressure within acceptable ranges can keep you healthier longer. Levels less than 120/80 mm Hg are optimal. High blood pressure is defined as 130-139 mm Hg systolic pressure (the top number in a reading) or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic pressure (bottom number).

While you can definitely work with your doctor on the last three, the first five lifestyle factors can be challenging to address. Any change to our habits takes time and intentional focus. If you would like help with addressing these lifestyle factors, book a free consultation with me to learn how Firefly's coaching programs can help.

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