How to look after your heart at every age
According to the British Heart Foundation, one person in the UK dies from coronary heart disease (CHD) every eight minutes.
Here, we tackle the facts behind the statistics with a guide to the most common heart and cardiovascular conditions along with advice on what you can do to help yourself avoid heart problems at any age.
In the UK, there are around 7.4 million people living with heart and circulatory disease - 3.9 million men and 3.5 million women.
As we age, our risk of developing heart disease rises due to lifestyle factors and family history which can cause plaque to build up in our arteries.
But, research has shown that this build-up can begin as early as our childhood and teenage years.
Some factors that can lead to an increased risk of developing heart problems.
- High blood cholesterol levels
- Smoking, diabetes
- An unhealthy diet
- lack of exercise
Heart health under 35
Heart conditions that develop over time, like CHD, tend to be rare in people in their 20s and 30s.
However, some young people may have inherited heart conditions that they aren’t even aware of.
In some cases, these conditions could lead to heart failure or a cardiac arrest, which is when your heart stops pumping blood around your body.
Genetic testing and screening are used to recognise any problems so the conditions can be treated and monitored. But, even if you’re under the age of 35 and haven’t been diagnosed with a heart condition, changing your lifestyle now could help to stop heart disease developing in your later years.
Look after your heart now by following the below tips:
- Exercise regularly and try to get your heart pumping for at least 150 minutes every week.
- Stop smoking. The chemicals in cigarettes put a strain on the heart and damage the arteries which can lead to heart disease.
- Swap food that is high in salt, cholesterol and fat for whole grains, fruit and vegetables.
Heart health over 35
As you enter your 40s, your chances of developing heart disease increase but are still fairly low. But that doesn’t mean you can be careless when it comes to heart health.
Recent studies suggest that high cholesterol levels in adults over the age of 35 could have a lasting impact on their heart. Help prevent heart disease by taking these steps:
- Eating fibre. Evidence suggests that eating three helpings of whole grains a day could lower blood pressure which contributes to cardiovascular disease.
- Exercising regularly which can help to keep your blood pressure under control and lower cholesterol levels. As it has no symptoms, many people in the UK are not aware that they have a high blood pressure. Get yours checked every five years if you’re a healthy adult over the age of 40.
- Keeping an eye on your waistline as being overweight puts a strain on your heart and can increase your chances of heart disease.
Heart health in your 50
The risk of developing conditions like coronary heart disease rises considerably after the age of 45. After the menopause, women have an increased risk of getting heart disease. As you get older, learning to pay attention to your body plays an even more important role in your heart health.
Here are some things you can do to look after your heart in your 50s:
- Boost your diet with Omega-3 by eating at least one a portion of every week. Research suggests that a diet packed with Omega-3 rich foods like winter squash, kale and cauliflower can help protect against heart disease.
- Keep your blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. As you age, conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and having high cholesterol can increase your risk of developing heart disease.
- Stay active by doing 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. This can help you manage your weight and lower your blood pressure.
Heart health for the over 60s
Over the age of 60, heart diseases and related conditions like strokes become more common often due to lifestyle choices such as smoking and a lack of exercise. But you still have the chance to lower the risk of developing heart problems or manage any existing heart conditions:
- The older we get, it may seem difficult to stay active. But it’s still important to get up and get moving with just 150 minutes of walking or other moderate activities every a week. This lowers your chance of developing coronary artery disease.
- Have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly because if they are high, it can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Developing heart problems gets more likely as we get older, but it’s important to remember that they can happen at any age. No matter your stage of life, it’s never too late or too early to look after your heart by making the right diet and lifestyle choices.