The American Heart Association’s Updated Heart Health Checklist Now Includes Sleep

The American Heart Association (AHA) has added sleep to its cardiovascular health checklist. It joins 7 other modifiable factors to help a person stay healthy: diet, exercise, tobacco use, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.

Want to do everything in your power to keep your heart healthy? You’re going to need to make sure to get a good night’s sleep.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has added sleep to its cardiovascular health checklist, which consists of eight factors a person can modify to stay healthy: diet, exercise, tobacco use, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and now, sleep. AHA published its new checklist, called “Life’s Essential 8,” in the journal Circulation on June 29. The old checklist, created in 2010, was known as “Life’s Simple 7.”

“Not only is sleep health related to the other things that play a role in heart health, it seems to also be directly related to cardiovascular health itself,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, the director of the sleep and health research program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, who helped draft the new AHA checklist.

“Sleep is changeable, and studies show that you can improve aspects of heart health just by improving sleep,” Dr. Grandner says.

Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than one-third of adults under 65 years old get less sleep than this, CDC data shows.

People who get less than six hours a night are at increased risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and worse mental and cognitive health, Grandner says. And those who sleep more than nine hours nightly are also less likely to be healthy and more likely to die prematurely, Grandner adds.

The AHA’s new Life’s Essential 8 checklist scores people on a 100-point scale, with higher average scores across all eight items indicating better cardiovascular health. Overall, average scores below 50 points indicate poor heart health, while scores from 50 to 79 indicate moderate heart health and scores over 80 indicate high cardiovascular health. There’s an online tool to check your score.