“Heart disease is something that just runs in your family, right? There is not much we can do to change it.” As a nurse, I hear statements like this quite often. The truth is that while genetics do play a part, the decisions you make each day can have just as big of an impact on your heart’s health.
So how exactly can you keep your heart healthy? I will break it down by age.
[tw-divider]in your 20s:[/tw-divider]
- Know early the numbers that impact your health. Your goal should be less than 200 mg of total cholesterol intake daily and strive for a blood pressure of 120/80 mm Hg or less.
- Check your family history. Ask your family if anyone has had heart disease or any of the risk factors for heart disease. If the answer is yes, your chances for developing heart disease go up. Make a point to talk with your doctor and see what you can do to decrease your risk of heart disease.
- Don’t smoke (and avoid secondhand smoke).
- Drink in moderation. Moderation means 1 drink for women per day and 2 drinks for men per day. Drinking heavily can cause a spike in your blood pressure and in some cases, cause heart failure and lead to a stroke.
[tw-divider]in your 30s:[/tw-divider]
- Tame your stress. Long-term stress causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage the heart. Try a few stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and find time each day to do something you enjoy.
- “Me time” is a requirement. Your health should come first. Now is the time to build heart-healthy habits, such as eating healthy, being active and getting a full night’s sleep.
[tw-divider]in your 40s:[/tw-divider]
- Strive for more balance and less stress. We are often times so busy caring for others, we rarely put our own needs first. But what would happen if you were suddenly too sick to take care of your family or go to work? You have to make time and invest in your own health-for yourself and the people who depend on you.
- Make your well-being a priority. Regular physical activity (150 minutes moderate intensity or 75 minutes vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity each week) can improve your blood pressure, cholesterol, reduce your chances of developing diabetes and can strengthen your heart.
- Get regular checkups. The tests you should have, include: Weight and body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting glucose.
[tw-divider]in your 50s:[/tw-divider]
- Monitor changes in your body and keep an open dialogue with your doctor. Take time to get regular checkups. Play an active role in your health care.
- Know your numbers. Here’s a quick overview of the numbers you need to know: Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL, HDL (good) cholesterol 50 mg/dL or higher, LDL (bad) cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL, Triglycerides 150 mg/dL, blood pressure less than 120/80 mm HG, and waist circumference less than 35 inches.
- Watch what you eat. Take time to plan healthy meals for your family. Choose foods low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars.
- Get physical. If you haven’t been exercising, now is the time to start! Your goal should be to exercise a minimum of 30 minutes most days, if not all days of the week.
[tw-divider]in your 60s and beyond[/tw-divider]
- Know your risk. The more risk factors you can keep under control, the less likely you are to have a future heart attack. As you get older, your blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart-related numbers tend to rise. You have the power to reduce your risk
- Keep moving. The older we get, the trickier exercise can be. It’s still very important to make physical activity a top priority in your life. If exercise is new to you, start slow and talk to your doctor for suggestions on the types of exercises that you can explore. Try to work in a minimum of 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
For more information on keeping your heart healthy, stop by the Owensboro Health Healthpark on Saturday, February 22 for “Here’s to Your Heart!” This educational event is offered in partnership with Owensboro Dance Theater and is an opportunity to participate in a wide variety of fitness classes, wellness activities, nutrition information and to hear from a panel of experts on keeping your heart at its very best.
You are capable of shaping your health with the choices you make. Here’s to healthier choices in 2014!