Juan Ponce de Leon, the Spanish conquistador and first governor of Puerto Rico, traveled to the New World on Christopher Columbus' second trip to America.
It is said that Ponce de Leon explored what is now Florida in search of the legendary "fountain of youth" whose waters would bring youthfulness to older persons. Ponce de Leon never found that fountain.
But what if there is evidence of instructions with simple steps that serves as a recipe for a longer life, relatively free of disease -- a figurative fountain of information for youth?
The American Heart Association has discovered the "fountain of youth" and calls it Life's Simple 7 (Los 7 Pasos).
The Simple 7 formula defines ideal cardiovascular health and is made up of three healthy behaviors and four health measures. The behaviors for increasing health and vitality are healthy eating, regular physical active, and not smoking or using tobacco.
The health measures or "biomarkers" are healthy weight (as determined by body mass index -BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose. Each step is divided into poor, intermediate, and ideal levels.
If a 50-year old person is doing very well on all seven parts of the Simple 7 steps that person has a very good chance of avoiding or delaying serious cardiovascular disease events like heart attacks or stroke and live a longer life.
The more of the seven that fall into the ideal level, the stronger the chances of a long, healthy life. Unfortunately, several studies have shown that less than 5 percent of U.S. adults have ideal measures in all seven parts.
You can find out how you are doing right now on Life's Simple 7. You can take an assessment and get a score. It is never too late to improve the score that is generated - to get "younger". It is never too early to achieve an ideal in all seven areas and achieve a perfect score of 10.
One more thing -- the science behind Life's Simple 7 shows that small changes make a difference. Adding a piece of fruit each day to your diet is a good start or walking for five or ten more minutes can make a difference.
Was Ponce de Leon was ahead of his time? He was on a quest to find the fountain of youth or a fountain for a longer, healthier life. That fountain eluded him, but it need not elude us. Los 7 Pasos are the true fountain of youth -- healthy living equals a longer and healthier life - Siete pasos para vivir su vida.
Dr. Eduardo Sanchez is chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association.