Taking care of your heart is a key factor for a long and happy life — and it's not something that has an age restriction. While focusing on heart health matters more as we age, taking steps to create a healthy lifestyle and stick with it when you're younger can make a big difference to your health and life expectancy as you get older.
As healthcare costs rise, not focusing on your health now could be expensive. Heart health should be a focus for everyone, heart-focused healthy habits and activities can lead to a longer life, but it becomes even more critical as we age.
There's no better time to start focusing on your heart health than right now. Here's how to get started.
How does heart health impact how long you live?
According to the Social Security Administration, the average man turning 65 years old today will live to 84 years old. That's an additional 19 years of life expectancy. Compare that to 1960, when it was just under 13 years.
Among the most significant reasons for longer life spans is higher importance on heart health. But, it's a leading cause of death in the United States. Here are some key statistics to consider.
It's never too late to quit smoking, and quitting will have significant positive benefits for your heart health and general health. Research has shown quitting, even later in life, can help lower your risks of lung disease, cancer and heart attacks. A study by BMC Public Health found that former smokers could add four years of life expectancy compared to those who still smoked.
Staying active is another factor that has a positive impact on heart health. This study of over 72,000 female nurses found those who walked regularly reduced their risks of coronary events by 30-40%. The good news is that starting physical activity at a later age, even when previously sedentary, can have a positive impact. Nurses who became active in later adulthood still saw lower risks of coronary events compared to those who didn't exercise.
Today there is a lot of misinformation floating around about diets. But, one fact is true: a poor diet can significantly increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A worldwide study from the European Society of Cardiology found that two-thirds of deaths from heart disease could be attributed to poor diets. Doctors recommend increasing vegetables, fish, nuts and whole grains while reducing or eliminating processed foods and sugary drinks.
It's becoming understood that high levels of stress, both physical and emotional, can harm the heart. Two recent studies showed mental stress increased the risk of cardiovascular issues. One study, which tracked patients without known cardiovascular disease and another, which followed patients with stable coronary heart disease, found those with high levels of mental stress were more at risk for cardiovascular events.
Research shows that people who focus on creating a healthy lifestyle while young and stick with it can significantly increase life expectancy as they age. The results from the study found that five key factors make a difference: not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, exercising regularly, moderate alcohol consumption and having a balanced diet. Those who maintained a healthy lifestyle increased life expectancy by an average of 12 years for men and 14 for women.
Heart health tips
Choosing a heart-healthy lifestyle can reduce your risks of heart disease, improve your overall health and help you live longer. Here are a few tips to get started.
- Get regular check-ups with your doctor to spot any potential issues with your heart.
- If you're on medication for heart issues, take them as prescribed by your doctor.
- The CDC recommends 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week and two days of muscle strengthening.
- Get a good night's sleep regularly.
- Stay hydrated during the day, especially if you live in a warm climate.
- Men and women have different physical health needs; stay informed and have regular check-ups so you can get the help you need when you need it.
As we live longer and the costs of care rise, it's more important than ever to take care of your heart now while you can. Transitioning to a heart-healthy lifestyle, as suggested in these practical tips, can help.
Do you want to learn more about how you can fight heart disease? Get started by reading how to fight heart disease at any age.