Using the American Heart Association’s seven measures for heart health may reduce heart failure risk


Scoring highly on the American Heart Association (AHA)’s Life’s Simple 7 checklist has been associated with a reduction in heart failure risk, according to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

Life’s Simple 7 is a checklist of seven measures people can adopt to both rate the health of their heart and to reduce their heart disease risk factors. The seven measures are: managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, getting physically active, eating better, losing weight and stopping smoking.

Researchers analysed data from the Framingham Offspring Study. To evaluate the association between the Simple 7 and heart failure, they followed 3,201 participants, average age 59, for up to 12.3 years. During that time, 188 participants developed heart failure.

Researchers found for each one-point higher cardiovascular health score, there was a 23% lower risk of developing heart failure. Those scoring in the middle third cut their risk of heart failure nearly in half compared to those in the bottom third. Those in the top third reduced their risk even further.

“Even though there is awareness about the importance of a healthy lifestyle, many people don’t act on those messages,” says Vanessa Xanthakis, senior author and assistant professor of medicine and biostatistics at Boston University. “This study points to the importance of knowing your numbers and speaking to your doctor about improving your score on each health metric and trying to get as close to ideal status as possible.”

Researchers also found an association between poor heart health measures and unhealthy changes in the heart’s structure and function, known as cardiac remodeling. These changes, measured at the beginning of the study, appeared to put people at greater risk for heart failure later in life. However, after adjusting for cardiac remodeling, low scores in the seven heart health factors remained predictors of heart failure.

Authors noted two limitations of the study: most participants were white and of European ancestry, and their Life’s Simple 7 score was assessed only once, at the beginning of the study.

The message of the study for patients was nevertheless strong, says Matthew Nayor, lead author and a cardiology fellow at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. “This is a useful metric for a healthy lifestyle that may not only help you reduce your chances of heart attack and stroke, but also of developing heart failure in the future.”

Co-authors are Danielle M Enserro, and Ramachandran S Vasan. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, USA.