NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Life's Simple 7

Life’s Simple 7


February marks the fiftieth anniversary of American Heart Month and the American Heart Association is urging everyone to learn more about how they can prevent America’s number one killer of both men and women – heart disease. 

  Heart disease kills one in four people every year.  The statistic is even higher for women with heart disease claiming the lives of one in every three women, killing more women than all forms of cancer combined.

During February, the American Heart Association seeks not only to bring awareness to this alarming issue, but also to bring awareness to the fact that heart disease is preventable and controllable.  

The American Heart Association has identified seven simple ways to significantly lower your risk of heart disease and improve your health.  These steps to prevention are called Life’s Simple 7 and they are:

1.     Get Active

2.     Control Cholesterol

3.     Eat Better

4.     Manage Blood Pressure

5.     Lose Weight

6.     Reduce Blood Sugar

7.     Stop Smoking

Let’s take a closer look at “Eat Better”.  A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet (foods low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars, and foods high in whole grain fiber, lean protein, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables) you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy.

 However, an alarmingly high number of us are not making healthy food choices. Recent studies show that more than 90% of us fail to consistently eat a heart-healthy diet. Our poor eating habits mean more of us have risk factors for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.

A first step in eating healthy is to stock your kitchen with healthy food.
The American Heart Association recommends that you eat a wide variety of nutritious foods daily from each of the basic food groups. To get the nutrients you need, choose foods like vegetables, fruits, fiber-rich whole-grain breads and cereals and fat-free or low-fat dairy products most often.

When starting to make changes in your eating habits, it can be helpful to keep a journal or use an online food tracker. This habit helps you see where you need to improve your choices. 

Vegetables and fruits are a major key in a healthy diet. They are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber — and they’re low in calories. Eating a variety of deeply colored fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure.

Eat unrefined fiber-rich whole-grain foods. A diet rich in fiber can help promote weight loss because fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer so you eat less. It can also help lower your blood cholesterol.

Cut back on saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and added sugars. Cut down on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet. Aim to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day. Limiting sugary drinks to no more than 36 oz. per week is a great way to reduce added sugars in your diet.

It may take a bit of adjustment to learn to enjoy a heart-healthy diet, but those who make the switch can find plenty of nutritious choices that are every bit as tasty. Many switchers will tell you that greasy fast-food choices no longer seem appealing.

Individuals can learn more about Life’s Simple 7® and get a free My Life Check® personalized heart assessment and customized life plan to kick-start a heart-healthy life today by visiting mylifecheck.heart.org

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