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Heart health tips for every age

When should you start thinking about heart health? The answer may surprise you.

“It’s never too early or too late to start,” says Andrew Klein, M.D., a Piedmont interventional cardiologist.

Dr. Klein says that even in your 20s and 30s, you can establish the foundation for a lifetime of good cardiovascular health. As you get older, there are important steps you can take to reduce your risk and minimize problems.

He adds that small lifestyle changes can make a difference at any age, even if you've already experienced heart issues.

“You’re never too old to learn new tricks,” he says.

Here are his recommendations for better heart health at every age.  

Heart health in your 20s and 30s

Eat well and manage your weight. Obesity can take a major toll on heart health, Dr. Klein says. If you’re overweight in your 20s, talk with a doctor about how to get into shape because losing weight can be more challenging as you get older. 

Visit a doctor annually. Don’t think young people need an annual physical? Think again. Many people are diabetic for years before they’re diagnosed, Dr. Klein says, and high cholesterol and blood pressure can develop even in young people without their knowing. High blood pressure is a silent killer because you cannot often feel it, even though it gradually boosts your risk of stroke and heart disease. High cholesterol frequently runs in families, so checking your cholesterol is also essential.

Don’t smoke cigarettes or vape. “Regarding smoking and vaping, it’s a very simple statement: We are not meant to be dragons. We’re not meant to be breathing fire,” he says. There is no benefit to smoking; it only accelerates plaque build-up in the arteries and markedly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Dr. Klein advises patients who already smoke to use resources like the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line (1-877-270-STOP) to help them stop.

Establish good sleep habits. This is an important one that’s too often overlooked, Dr. Klein says. “If you don’t sleep well,” he explains, “it can propagate a whole bunch of issues with anxiety, stress and response to that.”

Heart health in your 40s and 50s

Be consistent with good eating habits. “It becomes more and more important as we get older to eat the right things,” Dr. Klein says. Serve plenty of fruits and vegetables, and minimize red meats, processed foods, sugar and alcohol.

Get enough rest. Dr. Klein says that good sleep can be harder to come by in middle age. Time is short, and stressors can add up. He recommends practicing mindfulness to reduce stress and stay in the moment.

Monitor your health with your doctor. Keep following up annually with your physician, who will check your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. “It’s all about consistency,” Dr. Klein says.

Get enough strength and aerobic exercise. As you age, your body undergoes changes that can raise the risk of heart problems, but exercise can help. Dr. Klein says aerobic conditioning improves cardiovascular fitness, while strength training can counter the aging process of bones. Don’t forget to incorporate stretching and flexibility work, such as yoga, to decrease your risk of injury.

Heart health in your 60s, 70s and beyond

Exercise with an emphasis on flexibility and balance. As you get older, you become more susceptible to falls and injuries, Dr. Klein says. Take it easy if you need to, and try gadgets like step counters to track your progress. Continue to be consistent about cardiovascular exercise to help your heart, strength training to help your core and bones, and flexibility to help prevent injury.

Continue making rest a priority. A poor night of sleep takes a much harsher toll on an older person, Dr. Klein points out. Quality counts, so practice good sleep hygiene by turning off screens 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime, sleeping in a pitch-black room and avoiding alcohol before sleeping.

Maintain social connections. Social connections are just as important later in life. Try joining a club, getting involved with a neighborhood association, volunteering, attending a lecture at your local college or library, or meeting people in your religious organization.

Remember that no matter how old you are, it’s always a good time to take control of your heart health. You can mitigate important risk factors, but only a doctor can fully assess your cardiovascular health.

“If you don’t go to the doctor, you don’t know,” Dr. Klein says. “Heart disease can be insidious, and it’s never too early or late to get going and prevent a heart attack or stroke.”

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.


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