EVER wondered what your risk of a deadly heart problem is?
Well now you can face the truth with an online quiz that gives your heart health a score out of 100.
Seeing your heart health scored on paper could be the kick you need to make lifestyle changes.
Many heart and vessel conditions – such as heart disease and stroke – can be prevented with healthy habits.
That includes stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising.
There are eight factors the American Heart Association (AHA) considers crucial for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health, called “Life’s Essential 8”.
Since 2010, there were only seven components.
However, last week it was revealed sleep would be added as the eighth key cornerstone of heart health.
Dr Donald Lloyd-Jones, AHA president who led the expert panel that wrote the advisory, said: “The science has shown us how sleep is part and parcel of cardiovascular health.”
“Nicotine exposure” has also replaced smoking, as the experts wanted to include e-cigarette use into the equation.
Take the test
The AHA’s famous “Life Essential” score – which has been used in 2,500 scientific papers – has been revised to include a 100-point measure of heart health.
The quiz can be taken online at www.heart.org/lifes8.
Users will need to make an account and then answer a number of questions on their diet, such as how many servings of fruit and vegetables they eat per week.
You will also need to know your cholesterol and blood pressure, height and weight for the score to be created.
Once you have answered all the questions, you’ll be given a score out of 100, and told what you need to improve on.
Meanwhile, the QRISK®3-2018 risk calculator – available here – can reveal if you are at risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years.
And the NHS’ Heart Age Test compares your heart age, based on smoking, blood pressure and more, with your real age.
The essential eight heart health factors
Surprise surprise – one of the biggest things you can do to look after your heart is watch your diet.
The AHA says aim for an overall healthy eating pattern that includes whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and cooking in non-tropical oils such as olive and canola.
Limit sweetened drinks, alcohol, salt, red (beef, lamb) and processed meats (bacon, sausage, ham), and processed carbohydrates.
Avoid trans-fats that are found in shop-bought baked goods and fried foods.
Adults should get two and a half hours of moderate exercise per week, the AHA says.
If this is too much, focus on 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.
It’s important to do a combination of aerobic activity, such as swimming or cycling, and resistance/weight training.
Kids should have 60 minutes every day, including play and structured activities.
Smoking is undoubtedly bad for you, with tobacco increasing the risk of 50 serious health conditions.
The NHS recommends using products that contain nicotine – the addictive but harmless substance in cigarettes – to quit smoking, and encourages e-cigs.
But the AHA says: “Use of inhaled nicotine delivery products, which includes traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping, is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., including about a third of all deaths from heart disease.
“Cigarettes, e-cigarettes and tobacco products contain many toxic chemicals, as do their smoke, vapor and liquids.
“And about a third of U.S. children ages 3-11 are exposed to secondhand smoke or vaping.”
Sleep – the newest addition to the AHA’s Lifescore, has been found to influence our heart health.
Too little or too much sleep is associated with heart disease, studies show.
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but babies and kids need even more.
The risks of obesity on the heart are clear – too much weight can cause fatty material to build up in the arteries, causing a heart attack or stroke.
Some top tips for managing weight include learning about portion sizes – it’s not just about how big or small your plate is, but what it’s filled with.
Eating a healthy balanced diet can reduce cravings and hunger and exercising will burn calories.
High levels of non-HDL, or “bad,” cholesterol can lead to heart disease by causing a fatty build-up in blood vessels, making a stroke or heart attack more likely.
“It’s mainly caused by eating fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol,” the NHS says, adding that it can run in families.
The best way to reduce your cholesterol, therefore, is to improve on the factors above.
You won’t know if you have high cholesterol unless it is measured by a doctor because there are no symptoms.
Similarly to cholesterol, high blood pressure is not easily identifiable.
In fact it is called a “silent killer”, as left untreated it is a key cause for stroke and heart attack.
High blood pressure is defined as 130-139 mm Hg systolic pressure (the top number in a reading) or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic pressure (bottom number), the AHA says.
Levels less than 120/80 mm Hg are optimal.
The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked either by your GP, at a pharmacy, or with a device at home.
Keeping blood sugar levels at a normal level can prevent type 2 diabetes – a condition that raises the risk of a number of conditions, including of the heart.
In type 2 diabetes, glucose from the food we eat builds up in the blood rather than going into cells.
The body either has developed insulin resistance or the pancreas has slowly lost the ability to make insulin. Insulin is the hormone that carries glucose from the blood to cells to use.
Two key drivers of type 2 diabetes are excess body fat and lack of exercise, as well as a diet high in carbs, a family history of diabetes, ethnicity and age.