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Heart Month: Life’s Essential 8 

February 1, 2024 - By Dorothée Buteau-Poulin

Temps de lecture 4 minutes

In Canada, February isn’t just a very cold month, or the month of Valentine’s Day. It’s also Heart Month, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of good cardiovascular health[1]. Heart disease is the 2nd leading cause of death among Canadians, and one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization[2]. The good news is that good cardiovascular health can be maintained and even improved through 8 key practices, Life’s Essential 8, according to the American Heart Association[3].

The Life’s Essential 8 of cardiovascular health

The concept of the Life’s Essential 8 of Cardiovascular Health was introduced in 2022 by the American Heart Association[4]. One of the objectives of this concept is to make it easier to promote good heart health both in the general population and in medical practices.

This concept is divided into two categories of cardiovascular health: risk factors and behaviors. Each element is measured and quantified on a scale from 0 to 100. The results of the Life’s Essential 8 combine to give an overall heart health score out of 100. If you’re interested, here’s the link to take the test: https://mlc.heart.org/. One could also note that the inclusion of psychological health factors and social determinants (e.g. socio-economic status, living environment, etc.) in this test shows the importance of taking a global view when it comes to heart health.

The four factors associated with cardiovascular health

You’re probably already familiar with them, but here are the risk factors associated with cardiovascular health:

  • blood pressure;
  • blood sugar levels;
  • cholesterol;
  • and body mass index (BMI).

The inclusion of this last element in the Life’s Essential 8 is questionable since the link between BMI and health lacks nuance and has many shortcomings[5]. The assessment of body composition, more precisely the distribution of fat in the body, better reflects the risk of developing cardiovascular disease than body mass index per se. If you’re concerned about your heart health, it’s a good idea to measure your waist circumference. Your doctor can, of course, help you assess these four risk factors.

The four heart-healthy behaviours

There are four essential behaviors that have been associated with heart health:

  • not smoking;
  • moving at least 150 minutes a week at moderate intensity (or 75 minutes at high intensity);
  • getting enough sleep;
  • and eating well.

As you probably know, smoking is harmful to both the heart and the lungs.

As for exercise, I invite you to read the article by my colleague Mathieu Têtu. He suggests a workout program and details to better understand the impact of physical activity on heart health.

As for sleep, it’s recommended that adults get between 7 and 9 hours per night. Although well known to most people, this recommendation is often difficult to apply. And yet, sleep performs several functions that are essential to good heart health. Neglecting to get enough sleep increases the risk of many cardiovascular diseases[6]. Here are a few resources to help you improve your sleep.

The American Heart Association recommends eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (of course!), whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds. It also encourages the use of non-tropical cooking oils such as olive and canola.

Our specialists have your health at heart

Once again, the difficulty often lies in implementing and maintaining these behaviours over the long term. Don’t hesitate to call on our team of professionals to help you gradually acquire these heart-healthy behaviours and stay consistent despite the challenges of everyday life! Your heart and your quality of life will be better for it!

Heart Month: Life's Essential 8  is a post from Nautilus Plus. The Nautilus Plus blog aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
Copyright © Nautilus Plus 2024

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