Here’s a brief introduction about Barry, a man who wanted to find out key determinants for his health. Barry was more than the average Joe with a lovely family, home, and well paying job that made him inactive during most parts of the day and caused loads of stress due to heavy demands. Barry was getting worse everyday and he knew his heart was falling. He could not afford to see his family suffer due to his absence as he thought death was near as he just suffered his first heart attack at 35. Then Barry came across Life’s Simple Seven (LSS) and the tool made available by the American Heart Association (more on this towards the end). LSS was coined by the American Heart Association to measure the health of Americans by following seven very vital health factors and behaviours that increases the risk of getting stroke and heart disease. The goal is to measure if America is making progress towards 2020 in improving the cardiovascular health of every American by 20% and reducing death by the same percentage. The measures being tracked (simple seven) are: not smoking, physical activity, healthy diet, body weight, control of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. I have discussed these below and added my own thoughts to these.
- Not smoking: smoking is one of the leading risk factors for diseases and over 6 million deaths due to smoking occurred in 2010 alone. There are over 4,000 chemicals in a cigarette smoke and has been linked to several cancers because it is a major risk factor. Cigarette causes damage to the inner lining (intima) of blood vessels especially arteries and when there is damage, the body system tries to repair it by healing. Inflammatory mediators are recruited in the process which can have negative effects on the body system. The repair of damaged lining can lead to the formation of atheroma which can increase blood pressure. Smoking destroys cilia lining the airways which is necessary for sweeping mucus and bacteria. If cilia is destroyed, this clearance is difficult to achieve. This can become a breeding ground for bacteria leading to infection. I believe you now have an idea of why people say smoking kills and it really does. It reduces quality of life.
- Physical activity: according to WHO, this is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases e.g. Diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Statistics are not very encouraging as 1 in 4 adults is not active. It is recommended that children and adolescents do at least an hour of moderate to vigorous intense physical activity. For adults, this time increase to at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week. If this sounds like too much time for you, it is recommended that you do 75 minutes of vigorous intense exercise during the week. Activities recommended are walking or doing sports. Benefits of doing exercise as highlighted by the website are: improvement in muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness, reduction in hypertension risk, stroke reduction, improving bone and functional health. Policies aimed at improving physical exercise are making accessible and safe means of transportation for all, making changes to the workplace to encourage activity, making safe spaces for schools and also for everyone in the society. To fit exercise into your day, try out simple things such as walking, jogging, not taking the lift etc. Even if you fail to meet the necessary requirements, know that at least you are consistent in the simple things you do. For more about physical activity, visit here.
- Healthy diet: many people are lacking in good diet and one major challenge in this area is reducing sodium content and encouraging people to eat more whole grains. From studies conducted, it has been observed that it is easier to change a diet than to place someone on a exercise plan. Better results are achieved with a change in diet. So many people find it hard to maintain their motivation to exercise and also to fit it within their day. See my post on fruits.
- Body weight: most Americans over 20 are overweight with the numbers looking overwhelming. Gaining of weight starts slowly and people do not see any difference at the beginning stage until later in life when people start seeing visible signs. It takes a great deal of work to shed weight.
- Control of cholesterol: this is another major challenge as one in three Americans have high levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol has been linked to low density lipopolysaccharides that has been associated with atherosclerosis. If you have not known, atherosclerosis is a risk factor for many diseases especially cardiovascular disease such as angina, heart attack or stroke.
- Blood pressure: many people are affected and this leads to heart attack. Blood pressure starts slowly and goes undetected until the case gets worse. Since there are no associated symptoms, many people usually do not go for checkup until it is very late. It causes untold damages to the blood vessels and can affect organs such as the heart, kidney, and eye.
- Blood sugar: normally associated with diabetes and globally, the numbers are expected to rise from 285 million in 2010 to 439 million by 2030. The impact of diabetes have not being completely made fully known to the public and not much has been going on concerning educating the general public. It causes tiredness, frequent urination, diabetes, problems with kidney, and amputation in severe cases. You should know your blood sugar today and save yourself the agony of diabetes. See my post on diabetes
Wrapping up, LSS is simple enough to be initiated and carries huge benefits just as it did for Barry. LSS is linked to lifestyle and changes in lifestyle is one of the easiest and best things anyone can implement. For statistical information, visit Heart.Org
I cannot leave you hanging without introducing you to the tool that saved Barry. After Barry got his results from using the tool initially, he vowed to make changes and with the support of his doctors and friends, he was able to quit smoking, change his diet, and started exercising. He still lives today and he just turned 45. You need to check yours using American Heart Association’s tool. Screenshots of the welcome page and others are below which explains why you need to check out the tool.
You don’t want to miss using this tool after reading this article. The tool is great and I must say KUDOS to the creators of such a tool as this with so much information that is helpful. You can access the tool here.
Thank you so much for taking out time to read this article. It is because of your constant visits and support that I am able to write at least two posts a week. Do take out time to read other articles on this site and drop a comment before you leave.
P.S: Barry is a fictional story and I don’t work for American Heart Association or any other organisation. But don’t be decieved, real people have made changes to their health for the better using this tool. I just share useful information regarding health to audiences who would have not normally seen the resources I share.