Sticking to 'life's essential 8' checklist could slow down ageing by six years, scientists discover | The Sun

FOLLOWING eight simple steps could add years to your life, a study suggests.

People who stuck to the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 checklist slowed down how quickly they were ageing biologically by six years, US researchers found.

The guidelines for improving heart health include eating better, being more active, quitting cigarettes and getting healthy sleep.

Experts also recommend managing your weight, controlling cholesterol, managing blood sugar and keeping on top of blood pressure.

Dr Nour Makarem, of Columbia University, said: “Greater adherence to all Life’s Essential 8 metrics and improving your cardiovascular health can slow down your body’s ageing process and have a lot of benefits down the line. 

“Reduced biological ageing is not just associated with lower risk of chronic disease such as heart disease, it is also associated with longer life and lower risk of death.”

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Around 7.6million Brits are living with a heart or circulatory disease in the UK, according to the British Heart Foundation.

The conditions cause a quarter of all deaths in the country — around 160,000 every year.

The American Heart Association developed its Life’s Essential 8 checklist to help people reduce their risk of developing heart disease.

The guidelines cover eight key areas of health people can control to help improve their heart health.

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The study, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023, looked at how following the guidelines impacted people’s biological ageing — a measure of how healthy your cells are.

It differs from chronological ageing — how old you are on paper — because it looks at how your body is changing over time rather than your birth certificate.

Researchers looked at data from 6,500 American adults who were surveyed from 2015 to 2018.

Having the highest score on the AHA’s test was linked to having a biological age that is six years younger than their chronological age on average.

Dr Donald Lloyd-Jones, of Northwestern University, said: “These findings help us understand the link between chronological age and biological age and how following healthy lifestyle habits can help us live longer. 

“Everyone wants to live longer, yet more importantly, we want to live healthier longer so we can really enjoy and have good quality of life for as many years as possible.”

The essential eight heart health factors


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.

Nicotine exposure

Smoking increases the risk of 50 serious health conditions.

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 US, 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 US children agesthree to 11 are exposed to secondhand smoke or vaping.”


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.


Obesity 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. 

Blood pressure

Similarly to cholesterol, high blood pressure is not easily identifiable.

It is often labelled 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.

Blood sugar

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.

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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.

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