New AHA checklist: Only one in five adults have optimal heart health
About 80% of American adults have low to moderate cardiovascular (CV) health based on the American Heart Association checklist for optimal heart health, which now includes healthy sleep as an essential component for heart health.
With the addition of sleep, “Life’s Essential 8” replaces the AHA’s “Life’s Simple 7” checklist.
“The new metric of sleep duration reflects the latest research findings: Sleep impacts overall health, and people who have healthier sleep patterns manage health factors such as weight, blood pressure, or risk for type 2 diabetes more effectively,” AHA President Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, said in a news release.
“In addition, advances in ways to measure sleep, such as with wearable devices, now offer people the ability to reliably and routinely monitor their sleep habits at home,” said Dr. Lloyd-Jones, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.
The AHA Presidential Advisory – Life’s Essential 8: Updating and Enhancing the American Heart Association’s Construct on Cardiovascular Health – was published online in the journal Circulation.
A companion paper published simultaneously in Circulation reports the first study using Life’s Essential 8.
Overall, the results show that CV health of the U.S. population is “suboptimal, and we see important differences across age and sociodemographic groups,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones said.
Refining Life’s Simple 7
The AHA first defined the seven metrics for optimal CV health in 2010. After 12 years and more than 2,400 scientific papers on the topic, new discoveries in CV health and ways to measure it provided an opportunity to revisit each health component in more detail and provide updates as needed, the AHA explains.
“We felt it was the right time to conduct a comprehensive review of the latest research to refine the existing metrics and consider any new metrics that add value to assessing cardiovascular health for all people,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones said.
Four of the original metrics have been redefined for consistency with newer clinical guidelines or compatibility with new measurement tools, and the scoring system can now also be applied to anyone ages 2 and older. Here is a snapshot of Life’s Essential 8 metrics, including updates.
1. Diet (updated)
The tool includes a new guide to assess diet quality for adults and children at the individual and population level. At the population level, dietary assessment is based on daily intake of elements in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating pattern. For individuals, the Mediterranean Eating Pattern for Americans (MEPA) is used to assess and monitor cardiovascular health.
2. Physical activity (no changes)
Physical activity continues to be measured by the total number of minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity per week, as defined by the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2nd edition). The optimal level is 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate physical activity or more per week or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity for adults; 420 minutes (7 hours) or more per week for children ages 6 and older; and age-specific modifications for younger children.
3. Nicotine exposure (updated)
Use of inhaled nicotine-delivery systems, which includes e-cigarettes or vaping devices, has been added since the previous metric monitored only traditional, combustible cigarettes. This reflects use by adults and youth and their implications on long-term health. Second-hand smoke exposure for children and adults has also been added.
4. Sleep duration (new)
Sleep duration is associated with CV health. Measured by average hours of sleep per night, the ideal level is 7-9 hours daily for adults. Ideal daily sleep ranges for children are 10-16 hours per 24 hours for ages 5 and younger; 9-12 hours for ages 6-12 years; and 8-10 hours for ages 13-18 years.
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5. Body mass index (no changes)
The AHA acknowledges that body mass index (BMI) is an imperfect metric. Yet, because it’s easily calculated and widely available, BMI continues as a “reasonable” gauge to assess weight categories that may lead to health problems. BMI of 18.5-24.9 is associated with the highest levels of CV health. The AHA notes that BMI ranges and the subsequent health risks associated with them may differ among people from diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds or ancestry. This aligns with the World Health Organization recommendations to adjust BMI ranges for people of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry because recent evidence indicates their risk of conditions such as CVD or type 2 diabetes is higher at a lower BMI.
6. Blood lipids (updated)
The metric for blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) is updated to use non-HDL cholesterol as the preferred number to monitor, rather than total cholesterol. This shift is made because non-HDL cholesterol can be measured without fasting beforehand (thereby increasing its availability at any time of day and implementation at more appointments) and reliably calculated among all people.
7. Blood glucose (updated)
This metric is expanded to include the option of hemoglobin A1c readings or blood glucose levels for people with or without type 1 or 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
8. Blood pressure (no changes)
Blood pressure criteria remain unchanged from 2017 guidance that established levels less than 120/80 mm Hg as optimal, and defined hypertension as 130-139 mm Hg systolic pressure or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic pressure.