While more than 90% of people admit living a long, healthy life is important to them, less than half of those people are making lifestyle choices to support it, according to a Harris Poll for the American Heart Association (AHA). Researchers are now setting out to change that.
In their 2030 Impact Goals, published in the journal Circulation, the AHA said they will increase the U.S. life expectancy from 66 years old to 68 years old.
But they don’t want to just add years to our lives; they want to make those years significantly healthier. To make the ambitious goal a reality, they’re focusing on three main strategies:
Making healthy choices the easy ones.
By eliminating or restricting access to unhealthy options and simultaneously increasing access to healthy alternatives, AHA hopes people will be naturally inclined to make healthier choices.
To do this, they will promote policy and environmental changes that encourage healthier eating, active living, and reduced tobacco use.
While fewer Americans are smoking cigarettes than in previous years, vaping continues to rise in younger populations, and there are still more than 900 million smokers worldwide, according to the Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics.
In terms of physical health, the report says about 40% of U.S. adults and more than 18% of children are obese. One contributing factor to obesity might be the low rates of physical activity, with only 26% of children meeting their recommended daily guidelines.
Children are also at greater risk than ever before of developing type 2 diabetes, with one in five children and one in four young adults considered prediabetic. These statistics suggest a combination of unhealthy dietary choices and a general lack of exercise.
Implementing taxes on sugary drinks, incorporating more bike lanes, and creating smoke-free air laws are just three possibilities for reducing these risks, according to the ADA.
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Making health care accessible and affordable.
ADA acknowledges the economic disparities that can prevent people from making healthy choices and hope to change that.
“Sometimes parents are more worried about whether they can feed their children anything, much less whether it’s healthy or not,” said AHA president Robert Harrington, M.D., and “if you’re living with high blood pressure, you shouldn’t have to worry about choosing between whether to pay rent or buy your medicine.”
In order to make health care more accessible, Harrington said they will work with local neighborhoods and global governments to enact public health changes, as well as individual lifestyle changes.
“We’ll be inviting more people to the table, but even more importantly, we’re asking like-minded stakeholders to invite us in,” Harrington said. “Let us help be a catalyst bringing together elements that can create a healthier world for everyone.”
Getting better at stopping preventable diseases before they start.
Through the interventions above, they hope to decrease cardiovascular and metabolic disease risks before they can affect younger generations. Along with the 2030 Impact Goals, AHA published recommendations for improving heart health and disease surveillance.
In the paper, they commit to combining technological and scientific understanding to track people’s cardiovascular health, as well as prior treatments for cardiovascular diseases. Understanding these two aspects will help researchers create more effective interventions.
“We want everyone of all ages and backgrounds to be healthy and experience every simple joy, make every heartfelt memory, celebrate every special occasion they need and want to do,” said Harrington.
Aside from eating well and exercising frequently, an optimistic attitude might be the key to a longer life.
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