By Sarah Sommer, Worksite Wellness Coordinator at Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center
It’s never too early to start thinking about preventing heart disease. Making healthier choices early can continue to benefit you for the rest of your life. There are steps you can take at any age to improve your heart health.
Get regular checkups. Establishing yourself with a physician helps you get started with regular screenings. Your doctor is able to look at trends over time, which helps them know if you may be at risk. Some things to monitor include blood pressure, weight, BMI, cholesterol, and glucose.
Start an exercise routine. Getting in the habit of being active early means you are more likely to continue it as you get older.
Don’t smoke. Smoking can increase your risk of heart disease. If you already smoke, attempt to quit. Also, avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. According to a U.S. Surgeon General report, exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of heart disease or lung cancer by up to 30 percent in nonsmokers.
Get your family involved. Be active with your family. Instead of watching TV after dinner, try going for a walk or play active games. You can also get your kids involved in cooking healthy meals. Not only are you getting the benefit of being healthier, you’re also establishing good habits for your children.
Know your family history. If you have a family history of heart disease, you are at a greater risk of developing it yourself. Keep your doctor informed about any family history you discover.
Manage stress. Experiencing stress over a long period of time can increase blood pressure, which can damage the walls of the blood vessels and increase risk of heart disease. Some ways to manage stress include deep breathing exercises, physical activity, volunteering, or doing something you enjoy.
Manage your weight. You may start to notice your metabolism slowing down in your 40s, but staying active and maintaining a healthy diet can help you avoid weight gain. The key is to find a workout routine you enjoy. Make sure you are eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources.
Check your glucose. You should have at least one fasting blood glucose test by the time you are 45. Diabetes can increase the risk of heart disease. People who have type 2 diabetes have the same risk of heart attack and dying from heart disease as people who already have had heart attacks.
Be aware of sleep apnea. If your partner has ever accused you of snoring, take it seriously. Approximately one in five adults suffers from at least mild sleep apnea, which is a condition where you have pauses in your breathing while asleep. Sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Maintain a healthy diet. Take a look at your eating habits to make sure you are still getting plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and other lean sources of protein. Try eating some meals without meat by incorporating plant-based protein sources instead.
Know the warning signs. Learn about the warning signs of heart attack and stroke. Not everyone experiences the typical symptoms, and women may experience different symptoms than men.
Listen to your doctor. If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic condition like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, make sure to follow the treatment plan given to you by your doctor to help lower your risk of heart disease. This plan may include medication, diet, exercise or other lifestyle modifications.
60s and older
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Exercising and eating a healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Talk to your doctor about PAD. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition where the large and medium-sized arteries supplying blood to the legs become narrow or clogged, constricting the flow of blood. Your doctor can do a test for PAD as part of your annual exam.
Stay active. Continue to find ways to stay physically active. If you need help getting motivated, try being active with a friend.
For more information on decreasing your risk of heart disease at any age, visit the American Heart Association.
Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center is a medically based fitness facility, located at 1111 Trinity Lane in Bloomington. It is open to anyone, seven days a week, with exercise professionals on staff at all times. The Center includes a warm water hydrotherapy pool, lap pool, large variety of group classes, a 1/12-mile track, dietician services, and group weight management classes. For more information, contact them at 309-433-WELL (9355) or advocatehealthfitness.com.
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