Heart health in your 50s: Seven steps to a healthy heart

Heart health in your 50s: Seven steps to a healthy heart

Your 50th birthday is a milestone to be celebrated, but you've still got so much more life to live. Taking preventive steps today to preserve and even improve your health will allow you to enjoy the next decades of your life.
 
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, and as we age, certain changes take place in our bodies, which may make us more prone to developing certain health conditions, including heart disease. For women, changes in hormones can affect cholesterol levels, thereby increasing the risk of developing heart disease. Both men and women are more likely to develop diabetes later in life, which can lead to heart problems.
 
By being proactive about your health, you can help your provider determine your risk for heart disease and take steps to reduce your risk factors. Here are seven steps you can take to protect your heart in your 50s and beyond.
 
Get regular screenings. Routine preventive health screenings are essential if you want to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends the following heart health screenings: blood pressure at least every two years; blood glucose levels every three years; cholesterol every five years; body mass index at every healthcare visit; and waist circumference as needed.

Know your numbers. When you get your routine screenings, pay attention to the numbers that can impact your heart health, such as cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index, or BMI. Then track them over time. Here’s the recommended range for essential health numbers: 

  • 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
  • Body mass index less than 25 kg/m2
  • Waist circumference less than 35 in

Don’t stress. Stress plays a big role in heart health as it can affect behaviors and other risk factors that may increase your risk for heart disease, such as: high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating. Chronic stress also exposes your body to persistently elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Find ways to manage your stress, whether it be through regular exercise, meditation, enjoying a hobby, yoga or stress management classes.

Eat right. Eating healthy foods that are low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars is ideal for your heart health and can also help keep your weight down. Watch your intake of sweets and processed foods and stick to whole foods. Choose fiber-rich, whole grains, lean meats, colorful fruits and veggies, low-fat dairy products and fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
 
Get moving. If you don’t currently follow a regular fitness plan, it’s never too late to start. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week. Choose an exercise you enjoy and start off slow. If you’re already a regular exerciser, keep it up! Be sure to change up your routine to help prevent boredom and continually improve your fitness level.
 
Talk to your provider about diabetes. If you are overweight or have a family history of diabetes, get checked for diabetes and talk to your provider about your risk for developing the disease. Heart disease is one of the most common complications of diabetes. If you are a diabetic, you are at a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease. Get checked for diabetes and ask your provider what you can do to help reduce your risk for the disease.
 
Understand the effects of menopause. Some studies indicate that women may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease after menopause. While menopause itself does not cause heart disease, it is thought that changes in estrogen levels may play a role in the development of heart disease. Even so, the American Heart Association does not recommend hormone replacement therapy in an effort to reduce your risk. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking are recommended as the best way to lower your risk.
 
No matter how seemingly healthy or fit you may be, keeping up with routine physical exams is essential for reducing your risk of age-related health conditions, including heart disease. When was the last time you had a routine heart health screening?
 
Your primary care provider can help you by discussing your risk factors, lifestyle and evaluating your cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI. Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider at Goshen Physicians today.

Posted: 8/15/2017 by Goshen Health
Filed under: Heart, Heart and Vascular, heart health

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