Seven Steps to a Longer, Healthier Life

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness January 11, 2012
Clyde Yancy, MDWhat if I told you that over 50 percent of the population could live to at least 90-years-old – free of heart disease, stroke and other chronic conditions – if they just followed seven simple steps? Clyde Yancy, MD, chief of cardiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, believes this is possible, despite the fact that only 10 percent of the North American population currently manages to achieve such a healthy lifestyle. Yancy says the key is fairly simple and doesn’t cost a lot of money…just do more and eat less. Following are seven steps to live by.
  • Don’t smoke – If you currently smoke, it’s time to stop. Your risk of heart disease and stroke begins to decrease as soon as you quit. (And your friends will thank you)
  • Get active - People who are physically active enjoy life more, have a greater mental awareness, and a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  All it takes is a walking program – no need for expensive gym memberships or tight spandex – just a safe walking path and a commitment to make it part of your daily routine.
  • Control your cholesterol – Know your numbers…is your HDL high and your LDL low?  If your cholesterol is out of range, take action.  The first step doesn’t always require medication. Simple dietary adjustments, such as consuming more fruits and vegetables and less fat, will lead to better cholesterol control. 
  • Eat better – Healthy eating and good food can go hand in hand.  Be sure to eat a diet rich fiber and incorporate several servings of fish into your diet weekly.  Reduce your intake of sugar sweetened beverages, but make room for your favorite indulgences…in moderation. Finally, most of us consume far too much sodium and saturated fat, so watch what you eat.  Small changes over time will leave you feeling great!
  • Manage your blood pressure – Again, know your numbers.  Every adult should know their blood pressure because keeping it under control can cut your risk of stroke by up to 40 percent, and the risk of heart attack by up to 25 percent.  Since you can’t “feel” your blood pressure, it’s important to be proactive.  Similar to cholesterol levels, your blood pressure can often be controlled without medication. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Most of us could stand to drop a little weight –especially after the recent holiday festivities.  To get started, set a reasonable goal and be patient.  One to three pounds of weight loss per month equates to a 36 pound weight reduction in a year.  That’s enough to fundamentally change blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
  • Manage your blood sugar levels/diabetes – Focus on diet, exercise and once again, know your numbers.  The steps above and a general “do more, eat less” mindset will help you live healthy and reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes.

For more information on heart health, visit Northwestern’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute

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