The American Heart Association (AHA) recently released new recommendations for how to design, measure and recognize workplace wellness programs that promote heart health.
Heart symptoms can be ambiguous because they’re often disguised by other problems. In addition, there are multiple healthy heart behaviors and biometric markers. To simplify, the AHA released Life’s Simple 7 to benchmark, measure and help improve your employees’ heart health.
Seven steps to help prevent cardiovascular disease:
- Stop smoking
- Get active
- Lose weight
- Eat better
- Manage blood pressure
- Control cholesterol
- Reduce blood sugar
To help put the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7 into action, we’ve got seven targeted challenges that do just that:
1. Be Tobacco-Free
Get started on a tobacco cessation program. Set yourself up for success with these three tips:
- Tell friends and family that you’re quitting
- Write down why you’re quitting – and keep the list somewhere you’ll see it everyday
- Plan ahead for your triggers (like bars or long drives). If you can’t avoid these situations, plan for other ways to respond to cravings.
2. Sweat for 30
Exercise regularly to keep your heart healthy. Experts say we should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days a week – so sweat on!
Fit Tip: Listening to music makes exercise feel easier and boosts your motivation.
3. Join a Weight Management Program
Get started on a path to better health by losing weight. These programs can offer support, advice on healthier eating and tips for sticking with an exercise regimen.
Did you know? It’s not about losing a ton of weight – a weight loss of just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight will give you health benefits.
4. A Heart-Healthy Plate
Adopt eating habits that help protect your heart. Conquer cravings by indulging in healthy snacks, and start every morning with breakfast to rev up your metabolism (and prevent over-eating later in the day!).
Build a heart-healthy plate: Incorporate fruits, veggies, whole grains and fish. Choose healthy fats like vegetable oils, nut butters and nuts.
5. Blood Pressure Management
Get a blood pressure reading to know if you are within healthy ranges.
Make a change: Start by managing stress, consuming less sodium and limiting alcohol.
6. Screen Your Cholesterol
Your cholesterol levels have a lot to do with how healthy your heart is. Cholesterol screening is different from most tests. It’s not used to diagnose or monitor a disease – it’s used to estimate risk of developing heart disease.
Food for thought: Cholesterol-lowering foods include oatmeal, almonds, salmon and olive oil.
7. Read the Label
Pay attention to Nutrition Facts labels when you’re grocery shopping and cooking – they’ll help you make quick, informed food choices, especially for your blood sugar levels.
Reduce blood sugar levels: Avoid processed foods and be wary of additional sugar – even if the product is labeled “organic” or “natural.” Sugar is sugar, whether it comes from high-fructose corn syrup or sugar cane.
Find out your heart score now. Check out the AHA’s My Life Check to calculate your level of cardiovascular health.