A healthy, pumping heart is essential to life, providing nutrients and oxygen to the body’s cells. The food we eat, our activity levels and lifestyle choices all have a significant impact on our heart health. Heart disease is a major killer in the Western world and occurs when the vessels that supply the heart with blood become blocked with fatty materials that build up on the artery walls. The restriction of blood flow to the heart muscle means the heart is deprived of oxygen, leading to chest pain, angina and potential heart attack.
As we age, our hearts change and those over the age of 65 are more susceptible to stroke, heart attack, coronary heart disease and potential heart failure. When we are older our hearts don’t beat as fast during physical activity or when we are stressed, and arteries can become hardened causing high blood pressure. Other age-related changes to the heart might include an irregular, fast or slow heartbeat, thickening of the heart wall and problems with the valves of the heart which control blood flow.
A family history of heart problems can also increase your risk of heart disease making it even more important to ensure that you lead a lifestyle that minimises or delays your chances of developing a serious heart condition.
What can you do to improve your heart health as you age?
Stay physically active
Try to get exercise daily – at least 150 minutes a week is ideal. Participate in activities you enjoy, such as gardening, lawn bowls or walking.
Avoid being sedentary for hours every day.
Smoking can contribute to damage of the artery walls and increases your risk of developing heart disease.
Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight
Choose foods low in trans and saturated fats, added sugar and salt and eat a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Sensible eating. controlling portion intake and exercising regularly will help to maintain a healthy weight.
The occasional alcoholic drink is absolutely fine for most people. The recommended maximum amount for men is no more than two standard drinks a day, for women one standard drink a day.
Keep other health related conditions well controlled
High cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and other comorbidities need to be well managed in conjunction with your doctor, to ensure that medications are being taken correctly and to minimise potential health problems
It’s never too late to make the necessary lifestyle changes to safeguard your health and live a longer, happier life!
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