It’s Always the Right Time to Take Care of Your Heart
No matter how old or how young you are, you should always take care of your heart. According to Aditya P. Ambegaonkar MD, a cardiologist with PIH Health Physicians, “Unhealthy habits, like a poor diet and a lack of exercise, can take a toll as you get older. It’s never too early to start taking care of your heart. Whatever your age, start now.” The following guidelines can help your heart stay healthy throughout your life.
Statistically speaking, your risk of heart disease is fairly low at this age. However, the decisions you make now can affect your risk factors later on. It’s a perfect time to set a tone of heart health for the rest of your life.
- Have annual physicals with your doctor. Many people in this age group think they only need to visit the doctor if they get sick. But regular checkups can help find problems before they start.
- Be active. At this point in your life, you’re probably more active than you will ever be again. Take advantage of this time and set some good exercise habits for the rest of your life.
- Don’t smoke. According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s report, “nearly nine out of ten adult smokers started before age 18, and nearly all started by age 26.”*
- Know your risk factors. Genetic factors can play a role in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other conditions. Your risks of heart disease can increase based on your family, race or ethnicity. Your doctor can help you become aware of any risk factors so you can keep an eye on them.
Once you hit this age, your metabolism starts to slow down. It becomes even more important to take care of yourself.
- Get regular exercise. In addition to traditional cardiovascular exercise, like running, biking or swimming, build muscles through strength training to help raise your average daily metabolic rate.
- Eat better. That means plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.
- Follow your treatment plan. If you have been diagnosed with a condition like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, be sure to follow the treatment plan your doctor prescribed for you.
- Talk to your doctor about taking an aspirin every day. Especially in your 50s, taking a daily aspirin can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. But it’s not for everyone, so talk to your doctor first.
The more you age, the greater your risk for heart disease. Watch your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar numbers closely and manage any conditions that arise.
- Talk to your doctor about an ankle-brachial index test. Starting in your 60s, your doctor may want to make this part of your annual physical exam. This test compares the blood pressure in your feet to the blood pressure in your arms to give you an idea of how well the blood is flowing through your body. It only takes a few minutes and is painless.
- Watch your weight. A slower metabolism means you’re burning fewer calories than you were, so eat smaller portions to maintain a healthy weight.
- Learn the warning signs of a stroke and heart attack. Talk to your doctor about warning signs for these emergencies. Not everyone experiences symptoms in the same way, and women can have different symptoms than men.
With the right diet, exercise and treatment, you can maintain a healthy heart for a long time.
* American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/why-people-start-using-tobacco.html