The American Heart Association’s most straightforward and accurate test of heart health and cardiovascular disease risk is called the Life’s Simple 7 (or LS7) (*).
The LS7 tests for the effects of execessive smoking, bad diet, physical inactivity, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association uncovers another major factor in heart health. One that is maybe more important than any of the others.
In short, if you smoke, follow an unhealthy diet, fail to exercise, have a high body mass index score, or have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or high fasting blood sugar, your heart health may be poor and your risk of heart disease is the greatest.
In years of testing, researchers have discovered that these measurements are worse for black people than for whites, placing this group at a much higher risk of heart disease.
So there has to be the 8th factor!
In a new study, scientists tested the effects of stress on people who had these LS7 measures to see whether it was responsible for high heart disease risk.
They recruited 4,383 black participants and determined an LS7 score for each.
They also determined scores for chronic stress, minor stressors, major life events (like death of a loved one), and an overall stress score.
All stress types seemed to make the participants more vulnerable to low LS7 scores, and those people who suffered from more than one type of stress were the most vulnerable.
Stress is not always emotional stress. It can be:
1) Physical stress (eg. over exercising or diseases)
2) Sensual stress (eg. living close to loud traffic noise)
3) Mental stress (eg. worries, negative thinking)
4) Emotional stress (eg. loss of a loved one)
These types of stress accumulate causing a rise in stress hormones that then raise blood pressure levels.
The best way to lower blood pressure is therefore to give your body something I call a “focused break”, which reboots your system and lowers your stress hormone levels.