Keeping your blood pressure at optimal levels will help you live a longer and healthier life as you age. Preferably, your blood pressure should be below 120 diastolic and 80 diastolic (120/80).

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having normal blood pressure is especially important these days because having high blood pressure is one of the risk factors of a severe COVID-19.

A new study suggests that anyone can control their blood pressure by improving their scores on a metric of seven simple steps to target heart health.

Dr. Timothy B. Plante, the lead author of the new study, said that high blood pressure is one of the common conditions in the United States that contributes to the great burden of disability and the largest reduction of life expectancy. The study was published on Wednesday, September 16, in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

For their study, Plante and his colleagues followed nearly 3,000 middle-aged Black and White adults without high blood pressure for nine years in which the participants were also part of a longitudinal study called the Reasons for Geographic Differences in Stroke (REGARDS).

Nine years later, the researchers found that each point in the metric system of heart-healthy behaviors recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) was associated with a 6 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

READ: Scientists Link Eye Health to Hypertension and Vice Versa Among Young Children

Life's Simple 7

AHA's metric, Life's Simple 7, evaluates heart health by looking at the four main health behaviors, but later on, added another three health factors for a real metric for a healthy heart.

Step one, keep your weight as measured by the BMI at a nutritional value between 18.5 and 24.9. Second, get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise or physical activity. It could also be a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise or at least 70 minutes of vigorous physical activity.

Third, eat a healthy diet that is good for the heart, such as fruits and vegetables, and those foods that are low in salt, fat, and sugar. Fourth, stop cigarette smoking, and if you have not tried it yet, then do not think about starting it.

Fifth, your current blood pressure should not exceed the normal rate of 120/80 or 130/80. Sixth, cholesterol levels should have an LDL of 190 mg/dL, says Plante. Lastly, blood sugar levels should be at 100 milligrams per deciliter or below.

Each of these seven components gets a score of poor (0 points), intermediate (1 point), and the ideal (2 points). The total score of the LS7 metric is 14, and the higher the score means the ideal the cardiovascular health is of the person.

But any one of these metrics lowers the risk of having high blood pressure. Those with higher scores were less likely to develop high blood pressure ten years later than those with lower scores.

Personalizing changes

The LS7 program can be personalized to changes that they feel they can tackle. Plante said that it is recommended to tailoring step-wise health improvement and lifestyle changes for different people.

AHA hopes that Americans can try the Simple 7 at younger ages to lower their risks of high blood pressure. The researchers noted that the need for prevention is highest among Black Americans because they have the highest rate of high blood pressure among many other groups of people worldwide and are more likely to develop the condition at a younger age.

According to Plante, their study supports clinical practice recommendations of changes in lifestyle such as a balanced diet, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight, especially to those with high blood pressure.

READ MORE: Men With Higher Income May Face Greater Risk of High Blood Pressure

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