I have worked in research on the causes and prevention of cardiovascular disease for nearly 20 years.
During much of this time, I have volunteered for the American Heart Association (AHA), primarily in roles related to promoting the advancement of science nationally. Since 2013, I have been fortunate to serve on their national board of directors. In this role I have been involved in every aspect of the organization’s mission to improve the heart and brain health of communities. We launched the Life is Why campaign last summer to remind people of why it is so important to live heart healthy. I encourage all readers to check this out on the website Life is Why. I am also working locally with our Vermont District Board on projects in our community, where our main effort last year was raising awareness of stroke and in advocacy in Montpelier to enact policies to improve heart and brain health.
The AHA has redoubled its efforts in the area of prevention in the past decade.
Why? Because the biggest bang for our healthcare buck is in preventing diseases in the first place. Most prevention relies on interventions to our environment, not medicalization. In this regard, lifestyle change is key.
With the help of science volunteers, AHA has developed a new scoring system called Life’s Simple 7. It is being used to track the health status of Americans. The goal for this decade is to achieve a 20 percent improvement in health status as measured by this tool.
The Life’s Simple 7 tool is available online for anyone who wants to use it to assess their health – and get ideas for how to improve their health (Try it today at My Life Check).
As you might imagine from the name, Life’s Simple 7 offers seven measures for good health:
- Be Active
- Have Normal Cholesterol
- Eat Better
- Have Normal Blood Pressure
- Have Normal Weight
- Have Normal Blood Sugar
- Stop Smoking
When Life’s Simple 7 was released, I decided to focus some of my research effort on finding out what the potential impact of improvements in Americans’ Simple 7 scores would have on the health of the nation overall. Our research showed that favorable scores for Life’s Simple 7 are related to a lower incidence of stroke, heart disease events, venous blood clots, death, and other illnesses.
Mary Cushman, M.D. MSc, is a hematologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center where she is Medical Director for the Thrombosis and Hemostasis Program. She is Professor of Medicine at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. She currently serves on the Vermont board of directors for the American Heart Association and board member of the Cardiovascular Research Institute of Vermont. Learn more about the UVM Medical Center Hematology & Oncology.