In 2010, the American Heart Association(AHA) unveiled its heart health scorecard.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Don’t smoke
- Be physically active
- Eat healthy foods
- Control blood pressure
- Manage cholesterol
- Control blood sugar
For over ten years, doctors have used those seven items to gauge your risk of heart disease. This month, the AHA added sleep duration to the list. The new AHA heart health scorecard also updates the evaluation criteria for diet, exercise, and smoking based on research conducted over the past twelve years.
Importance of Sleep
Adding sleep to the checklist increases patients’ awareness of the importance of quality sleep. Doctors have long recognized that both too much and too little sleep are associated with heart disease. Light or often interrupted sleep is connected to declining psychological health, impacting heart health.
The scorecard recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Children under the age of five are expected to sleep 10-16 hours a day (which includes naps). As children age, their need for sleep declines slightly. School-aged children 6-12 years old need 9-12 hours of sleep, and teens 13-18 years of age need 8-10 hours of sleep.
Other updates to the AHA Heart Health Scorecard
The AHA also updated other sections of the healthy heart scorecard based on their research.
They added information about vaping and secondhand smoke exposure to the section on smoking which originally focused only on traditional cigarette use.
The new section on diet focuses more on how closely a person follows a Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet. This takes into account different eating patterns and cultures. Diet appears to be the major section that prevented patients from scoring “ideal” on the earlier version of the scorecard. The new scorecard allows patients to see how small changes in their diet can lead to big benefits for their health.
Why the new scorecard matters to you
Patients can use the scorecard to play an active role in managing their health. You can access the new AHA Heart Health scorecard and information on how to improve your heart health here. Your primary care provider needs to be a part of your plan to improve your heart health. Start with a wellness check-up where you can discuss what you’re doing well and where you need help to improve your score.
You don’t have to try to correct everything all at once. Tackling one area of your health can make a big difference.
When you’re ready to take charge of your health, walk in to EliteCare Family Medicine for your yearly wellness exam or request an appointment online.
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