Heart disease is America’s biggest killer and the leading cause of death in the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 610,000 U.S. adults die of heart disease annually.
The good news is that heart disease is largely preventable. Tending to your cardiovascular health can pay off big, both in terms of adding years to your life and by keeping money in your pocket.
It’s never too early to start thinking about your heart health and it’s never too late to start improving it. Taking steps to lower your risk for heart disease is well worth the investment, no matter your age.
Smart heart-healthy practices for everyone
1. Quit smoking. While most people associate cigarettes with lung cancer, smoking accounts for one third of all deaths from coronary heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Quitting nicotine can cut your chances for a coronary heart disease in half.
2. Follow healthy habits. Eating a nutritious diet rich in greens, whole grains and unsaturated fat can help keep your weight down and your heart strong. Losing just 5 percent of your starting weight can help decrease blood pressure and cholesterol. The American Heart Association also suggests at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Getting enough rest is essential, too, as sleep deprivation can contribute to coronary disease.
3. Get regular health screenings. Routine checkups are key to early prevention. A doctor can determine your risk for heart disease with proper screening. At your next check up, ask for your blood pressure and fasting blood glucose levels to be tested.
Here are more steps you can take to protect yourself from heart disease, starting in your twenties and heading into your sixties and beyond.
In your 20s
Learn about your family history of heart disease. If you have an immediate family member who had a heart attack or bypass surgery, your own chances for the conditions could be doubled. While you can’t change your genetic profile, you can take proactive steps to lower your risk for cardiovascular conditions. Establishing healthy habits and getting preventative screenings while you are young is key.
In your 30s
Look for ways to manage your stress. Chronic stress can contribute to cardiovascular problems and can negatively affect your sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to chronic health problems including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity and depression.
Stress management can help decrease your heart rate and blood pressure, which can help preserve the health of your artery walls. Research suggests meditation, deep breathing exercises and progressive relaxation can help lower your risk for heart attack.
In your 40s
Gen Xers beware: Studies show that adults born between 1965 and 1974 have a higher rate of stroke. To decrease your risk, pay special attention to your weight. Your metabolism slows after age 40, which can contribute to obesity. Start small, walking five to 10 minutes per day, then work your way up to longer periods of activity. Find exercises you enjoy and can stick to whether that’s swimming, biking, hiking or weight training.
In your 50s
By age 50, make sure you know the key numbers that impact your heart health, including blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins cholesterol (HDL) and triglycerides. Talk to your doctor and consider medications if your numbers are high.
Also make sure you know the warning signs of stroke or a heart attack.
In your 60s and beyond
Heart disease is the most common cause of death is adults over age 65. Now is a good time to consider getting a ankle-brachial index to compare blood pressure in your feet to blood pressure in your arms and assess how well your blood is flowing. An abnormal result could suggest you need more tests to determine if you have or at risk for peripheral artery disease.
Protect your heart, protect your future
As the costs of medical care continue to rise, tending to your health is crucial to protecting your financial future. By taking steps to prevent heart disease today, you’ll not only be contributing to your happiness and well being, but you’ll also be protecting your wealth for years to come.