Heart Health Through the Ages
Heart disease, one of the nation’s top killers, takes the lives of nearly 620,000 Americans each year. Unfortunately, you can’t change your family health history, gender or ethnicity, but researchers are discovering plenty of things you can do to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Dr. Kyle Frick, cardiologist at IU Health West Hospital, offers advice for keeping your heart healthy for years to come.
“Eating well and staying physically active is crucial to keeping a healthy heart,” Dr. Frick says. “It’s never too early to begin living a healthy lifestyle, but there’s more you can do than diet and exercise.”
Health experts calculate your heart age by tallying up your risk factors for heart attack, stroke and similar health problems. The resulting number expresses how many years of strain you’ve added to your cardiovascular system with habits such as smoking, eating unhealthy foods and being inactive. Heart attacks often can be blamed on factors that increase heart age, but it’s not too late to turn back the clock. To keep your heart humming, Dr. Frick recommends:
• Giving up cigarettes, if you smoke
• Keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes under control
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Eating a healthy diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables
• Being physically active
• Reducing your stress
• Limiting alcohol consumption
“Heart health matters at every age,” Dr. Frick says. “A poor diet and lack of exercise can cause plaque to form in arteries as early as adolescence, paving the way for a possible heart attack in a few decades.”
Prioritize heart health for your children at a young age by teaching them to live a healthy lifestyle. You can do this by:
• Limiting sweetened drinks, such as fruit juice or soft drinks that contain high amounts of sugar.
• Encouraging your kids to choose a fruit cup or salad over fries at a fast food restaurant.
• Buying older kids an activity tracker so they can count their steps. It may motivate them to move more.
• Planning time for the whole family to exercise together. Go for a bike ride, toss a softball, play tag or take walks together.
Want to find out your heart age? Visit cdc.gov/vitalsigns/cardiovasculardisease/heartage.html. You’ll just need a few numbers, including your age, the top number of your blood pressure and your body mass index.