Many times we look for the secret to live longer in the wrong places. From miracle diets to anti-aging creams, through gurus of cryogenics or anti-aging. But sometimes we forget to start with ourselves. For the habits that take care of our body, our organs and, especially, our heart. In this sense, a new study suggests that people who adhere firmly (and without wavering) to a series of 8 cardiovascular health tips can live for almost another decade than those that do not.
The study, published in circulation, found that people with the highest scores on these parameters lived up to nine years longer on average than those with the lowest scores. The more points, the more longevity. And these measure adherence to a set of lifestyle behaviors and health factors developed by the American Heart Association known as the ‘Life’s Essential 8’ or the eight essential aspects of life.
The new results show “that you can modify your lifestyle to live longer”says Dr. Lu Qi, lead author of the study, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Obesity Research at Tulane University in New Orleans.
The study is, so far, one of those with the largest sample of participants. So Qi and his colleagues analyzed data from 23,003 adults who participated in the 2005-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, linking it with data from the National Death Index up to December 31, 2019. Subjects were between the ages of 20 and 79 and were followed for a median of 7, 8 years.
Using a 100-point scale, the researchers determined whether the participants had low cardiovascular health scores (score less than 50), moderate (50 to 79), or high (80 or more) for each of the eight components. They also calculated a global cardiovascular health score.
But what are these eight guidelines to follow to live longer? Its apparent “simplicity” should not surprise us, since, as we have sometimes mentioned, the enigma of longevity lies in the “obvious”. Thus, these measures recommend not using tobacco, staying physically active, following a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, controlling your weight, and controlling your blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol. A study prior to this found that adults with higher adherence to these measures lived longer without chronic diseases than those with lower scores.
And in this case, the conclusions prove that people with the highest overall scores had an average 8.9 years more life expectancy at age 50 than those with the lowest scores. Among the individual components, tobacco use, sleep, physical activity, and blood glucose levels had the greatest influence on life expectancy.
Compared with people who smoked the most, those who did not smoke lived 7.4 years longer. Those who got the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night lived five years longer than those who got too much or not enough sleep. The most physically active people lived 4.6 years longer than the least active. And those who scored higher in maintaining glycemic control lived 4.9 years longer than those with poor glycemic control.
“What this shows us is how important a global assessment of cardiovascular health isbased on these eight factors,” said Nathan Wong, professor and director of the Cardiac Disease Prevention Program in the division of cardiology at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the research. “It’s not just about fulfilling a or two things.” If we do it all, we will live almost 10 more years.
In fact, another of the conclusions of this work was that participants with ideal cardiovascular health had a longer life expectancy than individuals with poor cardiovascular health. Around the 42% increase in life expectancy in people with an ideal score was attributed to fewer deaths related to cardiovascular disease. And almost 58% of the life years gained from having a better cardiovascular health profile were not related to cardiovascular disease. “That indicates that the impact of maintaining good cardiovascular health extends to other causes of death,” Wong explains.
Other studies on the 8 tips: those who follow them suffer fewer chronic diseases that appear with age
It was a study promulgated by the same university, in New Orleans, which examined whether a high cardiovascular health score was associated with the absence of chronic disease. For it analyzed data from more than 136,000 adults UK residents who, at the time of enrollment, did not have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer or dementia and had cardiovascular health score data.
The results proved that those who had a higher adherence to the “essential 8” lived more years without serious chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular, dementia and cancer. Specifically, men and women with an ideal score were expected to spend 75.9% and 83.4% of their lives in good health, respectively. Meanwhile, their male and female counterparts with a poor mark would spend 64.9% and 69.4% of their lives free of chronic disease.
Wong said these findings should motivate people to better understand their own cardiovascular health risks through personalized cardiovascular health score exams based on the 8 essential tips of life. “Consumers can get a good idea of their cardiovascular health from such an assessment and what they can do to improve their risk.”
Although the ‘Life’s Essential 80 includes many key parameters of cardiovascular health, according to Wong, future research should look at the extent to which other factors play a role. “The information about psychosocial factors such as stress and depressionas well as on social determinants of health, such as access to health care, may also play an important role in modifying the impact that key parameters of cardiovascular health have on cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular outcomes.”