A study has found that the heart-healthy lifestyle habits described in the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8, such as physical activity and quality sleep, are associated with a longer lifespan and a greater number of years spent free of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer.
The American Heart Association’s (US) Life’s Essential Concept 8 defines cardiovascular health based on four modifiable behaviors, such as physical activity and sleep, and four modifiable biometric measures, such as weight, blood sugar and blood lipid levels, which impact cardiovascular health.
The composite cardiovascular health score measured using the aforementioned eight parameters can help clinicians measure and monitor cardiovascular health in order to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease. A recent study showed that an optimal composite cardiovascular score based on the eight essential parameters of life was associated with a longer life expectancy free of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. A complementary study showed that the reduction in the number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease contributed significantly to the increase in life expectancy associated with good cardiovascular health.
Two related studies recently presented at the American Health Association (AHA) conference suggest that optimal cardiovascular health is associated with longer life free of chronic disease, reduced cardiovascular mortality and increased total longevity. These studies assessed cardiovascular health using the criteria defined by Life’s Essential 8, thus underscoring the validity and utility of cardiovascular health scores based on this concept as predictors of life expectancy and cardiovascular disease (CVD). ).
Life’s Essential 8 and Cardiovascular Health
In 2010, the American Heart Association (AHA) developed a health prescription called Life’s Simple 7, which consists of seven measurable risk factors or metrics that together represent cardiovascular health. The AHA revised Life’s Simple 7 to create Life’s Essential 8 in 2022 to improve the measurement and tracking of cardiovascular health and to aid in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
The eight parameters that make up the Life’s Essential 8 concept include:
– physical activity,
– smoking and other forms of exposure to nicotine,
– the sleep,
– body mass index,
– blood lipids
– blood pressure.
Each parameter included in Life’s Essential 8 is measured on a continuous scale from 0 to 100. These individual measures are used to calculate the composite or cumulative score for cardiovascular health, which also ranges from 0 to 100 points.
Although life expectancy has increased in recent decades, it has been accompanied by an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. The combined effects of the metrics included in Life’s Essential 8, such as increased physical activity, smoking cessation, and blood pressure management, are associated with increased total life expectancy. However, no studies have examined the association between the composite cardiovascular health score, calculated according to the definition of the updated version of Life’s Essential 8, and total life expectancy and disease-free life.
Two studies recently presented at the AHA conference assessed whether ideal composite cardiovascular health scores were associated with increased life expectancy in the absence of chronic disease and reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease. .
Life expectancy in the absence of chronic diseases
The first study examined whether the cardiovascular health score was associated with an increase in total life expectancy and life expectancy in the absence of chronic diseases. The study analyzed data collected by the UK Biobank from over 136,000 UK-resident adults who, at the time of enrolment, did not have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer or dementia and had data on cardiovascular health scores.
People were categorized as having poor, intermediate, or ideal cardiovascular health based on criteria defined by Life’s Essential 8. Researchers found that the average life expectancy at age 50 was extended by 5.2 and 6.3 years in men and women with ideal cardiovascular health, respectively, compared to their counterparts with poor cardiovascular health.
People with an ideal CVH score also had more years of life free of major chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia and cancer, than people with poor CVH. Specifically, men and women with ideal CVH are expected to spend 75.9% and 83.4% of their lives in good health, respectively, while their male and female counterparts with poor CVH are expected to spend 64.9% and 69 .4% of their life without chronic disease. Previous studies have shown that low socioeconomic status is associated with a lower disease-free life expectancy. In the current study, researchers found that maintaining ideal cardiovascular health helped reduce the impact of low socioeconomic status on disease-free life expectancy.
Cardiovascular health and lifespan
The second study examined the impact of maintaining ideal cardiovascular health on potential improvements in life expectancy due to decreased cardiovascular deaths. The study analyzed data from 23,000 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) between 2005 and 2018. Using a national death registry, researchers determined that 1 359 participants died during the average follow-up period of 7.8 years.
Consistent with the first study, participants with ideal cardiovascular health had a longer life expectancy than those with poor cardiovascular health. Specifically, the life expectancies of men and women with ideal cardiovascular health at age 50 averaged 7.5 years and 8.9 years, respectively, longer than their counterparts with poor cardiovascular health. Notably, 41.8% and 44.1% of the increase in life expectancy at age 50 in men and women with an ideal CVH score, respectively, can be attributed to a decrease in deaths from cardiovascular disease. .
Limitations of the study and implications
The ideal would of course be to adopt healthy habits from the start, but starting to exercise, sleep better and maintain a healthy weight can improve blood pressure and blood sugar and, therefore, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease for decades after the age of 50. Quitting smoking is the best way to improve heart health. Then it’s about maintaining a regular exercise routine.