Seven key measures of heart health may help predict future risk of cardiovascular disease, according to researchers. They added that improving these measures may also help decrease the risk of CVD in the future.
Seven factors are
- Salt Intake
- Physical exercise
- Total cholesterol level
- Blood pressure
- Fasting blood glucose level
- Body mass index
The team of researchers, including three from Penn State, studied how seven key health measures like diet, exercise and blood pressure were related to people's cardiovascular health over time.
They identified five patterns of how well people did or did not do on the seven health measures over time. These patterns were able to help predict participants' future risk of CVD.
For example, people who consistently scored well in the seven metrics had a lower chance of CVD than people who did not. The researchers also found that improving these metrics over time was related to a lower risk of CVD in the future.
The American Heart Association identified the seven health metrics as the most important predictors of heart health. They include four behaviors that people have control over and three biometrics that should be kept at healthy levels.
The modifiable behaviors include not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy and staying physically active. The biometrics are blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Each metric has a poor, intermediate or ideal score. For example, smoking regularly would be considered "poor," smoking within the past 12 months would be "intermediate," and never smoking or quitting more than a year ago would be "ideal." Combining the score for all seven metrics 0 for poor, 1 for intermediate and 2 for ideal results in an overall "cardiovascular health score," or CHS.
The researchers used data from 74,701 Chinese adults from the Kailuan Study. At the beginning of the study, the participants completed questionnaires about their health and underwent clinical exams and lab tests three times in the first four years. Across the following five years, the researchers kept track of any new onset CVD cases in the participants.
After the information was gathered, the researchers analyzed the data to see how CHS during the first four years was associated with whether or not the participants developed CVD subsequently. They found five distinct patterns or trajectories that people followed throughout the four years. These trajectories included maintaining high, medium or low CHS, as well as increasing and decreasing CHS over time.
Additionally, the researchers were curious about whether one health measure was more important than the others. They ran repeated tests, removing a different, single health measure each time. They found that the scores still predicted future CVD risk in similar ways.
This suggests that overall cardiovascular health is still the most important thing and that one factor isn't more important than the others. It also helps confirm that these seven metrics are valid and a very useful tool for developing a strategy for cardiovascular disease prevention.