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Ideal cardiovascular health and Life's Simple 7

"The American Heart Association has defined ideal cardiovascular health based on seven risk factors, known as LS7 or as Life's Simple 7".

The lifestyle changes that individuals can make to reduce cardiovascular risk are: cessation of smoking, an increase in physical activity, a reduction in weight, improvements in diet, lowered blood pressure and glucose. The last change is in regard to lowering cholesterol which continues to be controversial as many studies suggest that inflammation levels are a greater risk factor.

The recommended diet is one with a high intake of vegetables. Other inclusions will depend on your dietary preference and may or may not factor in fruit, whole grains, dairy, poultry, fish, nuts and legumes. Research does suggest that it is beneficial to limit the intake of sweets, sugar sweetened beverages, red meat and salt.

Moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise for 40 minutes, 3-4 days a week was reported to effectively reduce systolic blood pressure by 5-15 mmHG and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 3 mmHg. Resistance exercise was considered to also lower blood pressure (systolic and diastolic by 4 mmHg).

The statistics surrounding weight loss tend to be mixed across studies but in general, a BMI < 25 was considered to be optimal. A 1-2-pound loss was reported to equate to a 1-2 mmHg reduction in blood pressure.

Heavy alcohol consumption has been found to be one of the greatest risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Although moderate use of alcohol has often appeared to be cardioprotective in the literature, reducing alcohol consumption, especially in heavy drinkers (>5 drinks per day) was found to decrease both systolic by 5.5 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure blood pressure but 3.97 mmHg.

In isolation, some of the lifestyle changes may not appear to be significant, but when combined, the interventions can have a profound effect on lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health.

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