0310-Feature-Simple 7_BlogLife’s Simple 7 is a tool from the American Heart Association that helps people reach the goal of ideal heart health. It also may help reduce the risk of blood clots in the deep veins and lungs, according to a new study.

Researchers recently reported that people could reduce their risk of a venous thromboembolism by more than 40 percent by achieving healthy levels of Life’s Simple 7: body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and physical activity, as well as not smoking and focusing on healthy eating.

“We know that there are some similarities in risk for venous thromboembolism and heart disease, so we wanted to learn whether the Life’s Simple 7 metric might also be related to venous thromboembolism risk,” said study coauthor Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., professor of medicine and director of the thrombosis and hemostasis program at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Venous thromboembolism is a potentially deadly condition in which a person has deep vein thrombosis (DVT), where a blood clot develops in the deep veins, or a pulmonary embolism, which occurs when one or more arteries in the lungs is blocked, usually when part of a clot in the legs breaks off and travels to the lungs.

Venous thromboembolism is thought to affect 300,000 to 600,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 will die from the condition.

In the new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers analyzed health information from more than 30,000 white and black Americans ages 45 and older. Participants were categorized based on a Life’s Simple 7 scoring system in which they received zero to two points in each of the seven components.

For example, people with a BMI of 30 or higher — considered obese — received zero points in that category, whereas people with a normal BMI of less than 25 got two points. Being physically active at least four times a week earned two points versus zero for no physical activity.

Participants were then categorized into three groups based on their total score: zero to four points was considered “inadequate,” five to nine points was “average” and 10 to 14 points was “optimal.”

There were 263 venous thromboembolism cases after about five years of follow-up. The likelihood of having a blood clot was highest among the “inadequate” group, with an overall predicted rate of 2.9 percent over 10 years. The risk dropped to 1.8 percent over 10 years for those in the “optimal” group.

That translated to a 38 percent lower risk of venous thromboembolism for people in the “average” category and a 44 percent lower risk for the “optimal” group compared with those in the unhealthiest category.

The most impactful of the seven factors on blood clot risk were physical activity and BMI, according to the study. Compared with those who never exercised, people exercising four or more times a week had a 41 percent lower risk of venous thromboembolism. Similarly, those with a normal BMI had a 66 percent lower risk of blood clots than people who were obese.

“We have known for a long time that obesity is a risk factor for venous thromboembolism, but this is some of the first evidence that regular physical activity also reduces risk,” Cushman said.

Other strong risk factors for venous thromboembolism include surgery, cancer, trauma, immobilization, pregnancy and birth control pills.

“People exposed to these factors, especially if they are obese or inactive, should talk with their healthcare providers about steps to reduce their risk,” said Cushman.

An important next step in research is to better identify people at highest risk for venous thromboembolism who would therefore benefit the most from strategies to prevent it, Cushman said.

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