Tips for a Heart-Healthy New Year

By Lynne Braun

The holidays are upon us and soon it will be time to think about a New Year’s resolution. The vast majority of people resolve to improve their health. That’s why health clubs are so crowded during the month of January!

Seven simple factors are associated with a heart-healthy lifestyle – ideal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, body mass index, not smoking, engaging in regular physical activity, and a healthy diet. The American Heart Association calls these “Life’s Simple 7.”

Unfortunately, a recent study showed that only 25 percent of Americans, age 45 to 98, have four or more of Life’s Simple 7 factors at ideal levels. But the good news is that a higher number of ideal health factors is associated with lower mortality.

The American Heart Association offers a tool and a strategy for improving your heart health by raising your number of ideal health factors. It’s called “My Life Check,” and it can be found at You begin by getting your assessment after answering several questions pertaining to the seven health factors. Based on your assessment, you receive a “heart score,” and you choose an area you wish to work on (get active, eat better, lose weight, stop smoking, control cholesterol, manage blood pressure, reduce blood sugar).

You will then receive tips and strategies to help you achieve your goals. Periodically, you can take the assessment again and watch the improvement in your heart score. At any point, you can choose to work on a different lifestyle factor.

I wish you a happy, and heart-healthy 2011!

Lynne T. Braun, PhD, CNP, is a nurse practitioner at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and professor of nursing at Rush University.

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