Do you know your heart's real age?
Special to SVLfreenews.com
Are you young at heart? Or have lifestyle choices or family history made your heart old beyond your years?
Taking charge of your heart health starts with understanding your risk factors.
That’s why Davis Regional Medical Center is drawing attention to the link between heart disease and your weight, eating habits, physical activity, smoking, and certain health conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average American man has a heart that is 7.8 years “older” than his chronological age. For women, the comparable “heart age” is 5.4 years higher than her calendar age.
Lack of exercise, a poor diet, and other unhealthy habits can take a toll over the years.
“As we approach a certain age, many of us start to consider heart disease and what we can do to prevent it,” said Dr. John Allan, a cardiologist with Davis Medical Group. “The good news is that even people in their 50s and 60s can regain the heart health of someone decades younger. Several clinical studies indicate that taking good care of yourself can help reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. More than 600,000 people die of heart disease every year. That’s one in every four deaths across the country.
Dr. Santosh Reddy-Devarapally, another cardiologist also with Davis Medical Group, notes that “it’s never too late to make better health choices. All you need is a goal and a plan, and the desire to live better.”
Dr. Allan and Dr. Reddy-Devarapally offered these simple steps to take:
1. Check your family history. Ask your family if anyone – parents, grandparents, and siblings – has had heart problems or any of the common risk factors for cardiovascular heart disease, such as diabetes. If the answer is “yes,” your chances for developing heart disease go up. Talk with your doctor about what you can do to decrease your risk of developing heart disease.
2. Don’t smoke. If you smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products, it’s time to quit. Ask your doctor about programs and medications that may help you kick the habit.
3. Watch what you eat. Choose foods low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. Focus on including foods that are nutrient-dense, including colorful vegetables and fruits; fiber-rich whole grains; lean meats, skinless chicken and fish in omega-3s; and fat-free or low-fat dairy. These foods can give your heart the nutrients it needs as well as improve your cholesterol and blood pressure.
4. Be physically active. If exercise is new to you or you have a chronic condition, ask your doctor for suggestions on the types of exercises you can explore. Your goal should be to get 30-60 minutes of exercise on most or all days of the week. Additionally, on two or more days a week include muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (e.g., legs, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
5. Know your numbers. Knowing the numbers that impact your heart is an important step toward healthy living. Talk to your doctor to see how your current numbers measure up to these goals:
a. Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL
b. HDL (good) cholesterol 50 mg/dL or higher
c. LDL (bad) cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL
d. Triglycerides less than 150 mg/dL
e. Blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg
f. Body mass index (BMI) less than 25 kg/m2
6. Get regular checkups. In addition to blood pressure checkups and other heart-health screenings, you should have your blood sugar level tested by the time you’re 45. This first test serves as a baseline for future tests, which you should have every three years.
“Though you can’t rewind your chronological age, there are several things you can do to reduce your heart age,” Dr. Reddy-Devarapally said. “Preventing heart disease – and all cardiovascular diseases for that matter – means making smart choices now that will pay off for the rest of your life.”