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How to Prevent Heart Disease at Any Age

No matter how old—or young—you are, you can always take steps that will help you care for your heart. According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. However, in addition to eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, there are things you can do to prevent heart disease at any age.

In Your 20s

While it may seem a little early to worry about heart disease, plaque can being clogging arteries as early as childhood. By age 20 you should make an appointment with your doctor for a complete physical with lab work. Have your cholesterol, blood pressure, BMI, heart rate, and triglycerides checked and know where you stand.

This is also the decade to make exercise a habit that you maintain in your older years. Shoot for at least 30 minutes of high intensity exercise most, if not every, day. You can break it up throughout the day in 10-15 minute sessions. Also, if you picked up smoking in your teens, now is the time to quit.

In Your 30s

Life can be hectic in your 30s, with many Americans juggling their families and careers. Remember to keep your family’s heart health a priority. If you have kids, start healthy habits with your children by playing outside with them and having them help you cook healthy meals. You will also want to learn about your family history if you haven’t already—having a relative with heart disease increases your chances.

Lastly, learn to manage your stress. Long-term stress increases the heart rate and blood pressure, which is bad for the heart. Try simple meditations, breathing exercises, and make sure you get enough sleep.

In Your 40s

Metabolism slows down in your 40s. Prevent weight gain by keeping a heart-healthy diet and getting a lot of exercise. Find a workout routine that you enjoy and stick with it. Sometimes, finding another person to exercise with you can help you stay on track with your exercise.

By the time you’re 45, get your blood sugar checked by testing your fasting glucose level. You’ll also want to keep up with your other heart-related screenings by checking your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides.

In Your 50s

In addition to getting your regular screenings and keeping up with a healthy diet and exercise, know the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke. They often aren’t as dramatic as they seem in the movies—the symptoms can be very subtle. You may not experience chest pain or numbness and the symptoms are different in men and women. Additionally, if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol it is important to follow your treatment plan.

In Your 60s and Beyond

The American Heart Association recommends getting an ankle-brachial index test as part of you physical exam every two years starting in your 60s. This test diagnoses peripheral artery disease (PAD), a disease in which plaque builds up in the leg arteries.

Your body burns fewer calories as you age, so keep an eye on your weight. Your blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart-related numbers can rise as you age, so continue monitoring them.

Be sure to tune in to the next Abington Health live Health Chat on Preventing Heart Disease presented by cardiologist Andrew S. Fireman, MD on Thursday, February 19 at 6 p.m. Sign up and submit your confidential questions here.