Heart disease is scary stuff. It claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined. But heart disease is far from a given. There are dozens of things you can do to keep your heart healthy, no matter how old, or how young, you are.
Here are some key factors and lifestyle habits you should be looking out for to keep your heart healthy and strong no matter what your age.
In your 40s
Butt out. If you’re still smoking you need to quit. Now. Period. Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for young men and women. And it poses even more danger in those under 50 than those who are over 50. Quit smoking and you can lower your risk of heart disease as much as, or more than, you would if you took aspirin, statins, beta blockers, or ACE inhibitors. Call 1-800-QUITNOW for help.
Sleep soundly. Your heart needs its rest. Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to increase your risk of heart disease. To get a good nights sleep:
- Get into bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Exercise, but quit at least a few hours before turning in.
- Don’t toss and turn in bed. If you can’t fall asleep, move to another room until you’re tired.
Get a baseline electrocardiogram. This test checks your heart rate and the strength of electrical signals as they pass through your heart chambers. If you’re 45 or older, speak to your doctor about getting one.
In your 50s
Tweak your diet. As you age, your body’s ability to efficiently metabolize starch and sugar declines. Limit your intake of added sugars and cut back on simple carbs.
Know your numbers. The American Heart Association recommends getting your cholesterol checked every four to six years, your blood pressure checked at least every two years, your blood glucose levels checked every three years, waist circumference checked as needed and body mass index checked during every regular healthcare visit. If you are at increased risk for heart disease, your doctor may want to check your numbers more often.
Brush up on your family history. If your dad had a heart attack before age of 50, your risk is double that of the average person. If your mom had an attack under age 60, it raises your risk by 70 percent.
In your 60s
Stay in touch. Strong social ties can help ward off heart disease. Make sure to see loved ones at least once a week. Think about forging new connections by joining a local reading club or serving food in a soup kitchen. The more varied your social network, the healthier you’ll be.
Move more. It’s never too late to start exercising. Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, but as soon as you get the green light, go for it. Choose something you enjoy, whether it’s walking with a friend, gardening, or ballroom dancing. Start slowly, then add more and more time into your workout. Your goal should be to get at least 30 minutes of activity most days of the week.
Take a time out. Unchecked stress can lead to high blood pressure, higher cholesterol, and artery damage. Try yoga, meditation, or even just deep breathing a few times daily.
You’re never too young, or too old, to keep your heart healthy!