University of Vermont

University Communications

Cushman AHA Presentation Highlights Life's Simple 7™ Health Factors

Release Date: 11-22-2010

Author: Jennifer Nachbur
Phone: 802-656-7875 Fax: 802-656-3961

(This release is adapted from a "News Tips" sheet produced by the AHA Communications Office.)

Helping people identify and adopt healthier lifestyle choices was the focus of a presentation by Mary Cushman, M.D., University of Vermont professor of medicine, at the American Heart Association's (AHA) 2010 Scientific Sessions held in Chicago, Ill., November 13 to 17, 2010. Her talk, titled "Life's Simple 7 in 2003-7 and Mortality in Blacks and Whites," discussed results from a new analysis of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Cohort study, for which Cushman serves as a co-investigator. She and colleagues learned that 29 percent of black and white middle-aged and elderly Americans have four or more of seven health factors key to preventing cardiovascular disease and stroke – referred to by the AHA as Life’s Simple 7™ – at ideal levels.

In January 2010, the AHA announced its new impact goal, which is "By 2020, to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent." This novel goal, which focuses on preventing heart disease and stroke by helping people identify and adopt healthier lifestyle choices, features a new definition of cardiovascular health, with the entire spectrum of health defined in one of three categories: ideal, intermediate and poor. The seven health factors for adults on the Life's Simple 7™ list include:

  • Never smoked or quit more than one year ago
  • Body mass index (BMI) of 18.5-24.9 kg/m2
  • Physical activity of at least 150 minutes (moderate intensity) or 75 minutes (vigorous intensity) each week
  • Four to five key components of a healthy diet consistent with current American Heart Association recommendations
  • Total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL
  • Blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg
  • Fasting blood glucose less than 100 mg/dL

    The REGARDS study enrolled 17,820 participants ages 45 to 84 without cardiovascular disease in 2003-7 and has followed the participants for 4.4 years. For the new study, which Cushman reported at the AHA Scientific Sessions 2010 meeting, researchers divided the participants into one of the three categories for cardiovascular health as defined by the AHA – poor, intermediate and ideal – based on Life’s Simple 7™. The study results showed:

  • Only two people (0.01 percent) in the study group had all seven health factors at ideal levels.
  • Participants with five to seven health factors at ideal levels were more likely to be younger than 65, female and white.
  • Death rates were 55 percent lower for participants with five to seven health factors at ideal compared with those who had no health factors at ideal levels.
  • Among the seven factors, fasting blood sugar levels had the highest prevalence of being ideal (66.9 percent) and diet score had the lowest prevalence (0.43 percent.)
  • For every additional health factor at the ideal level, a person had a 18 percent lower chance of dying over four years.

    Cushman and her colleagues said the findings could help shape interventions to improve heart health and help meet the AHA 2020 Impact Goal. Coverage of the study findings was featured in the Los Angeles Times, as well as in other national print and online publications.