Heart Health in Your 40s: 4 Steps to Take Control Now
It often takes people until their 50s or 60s to realize they need to focus on heart health. I’d like to see that change. The earlier the better; research shows that heart health can be affected as early as infancy.
Today, I’d like to talk specifically to those of you in your 40s. Yes, it’s never too early to adopt heart-healthy living, but if you’re in your 40s, it’s also not too late to change your habits. Now is the time to focus on the health of your heart. Here are four steps to take control now.
1. Get a health checkup.
Don’t skip this important step. Getting an evaluation from your health care provider will let you know both where you’re starting from and where you need to go. Tell your doctor that you’re specifically interested in the health of your heart. Let her know you want to assess where you’re at health-wise: blood pressure, cholesterol, vitamin D, Omega-3s, and inflammatory status (with a test like C-reactive protein).
Then, when the results come in, sit down with your doctor and talk through them. Ask for copies of your results; this will allow you to look back later in your heart health journey and see your progress. Ask your doctor if she has any advice or restrictions as you start focusing on getting healthier.
2. Get to a healthy weight.
Are you overweight? If you have excess weight, each pound lost takes you closer to a healthier heart and body. What’s interesting about weight loss is that it’s about so much more than physical appearance. As your healthy weight supports heart health, your health heart also supports weight maintenance and exercise performance. It’s a beneficial relationship that’s good for the whole body! (For more on how the heart and weight work together, watch this video.)
3. Exercise regularly.
If you haven’t exercised a day in your life, guess what? You can start now. And if you’ve tried and failed at working exercise into your lifestyle, here’s my message: Today is a new day. Start with walking and then increase your activity level as you get fitter. Whether you’re 14 or 40, regular exercise is one of the most important strategies for keeping one of your body’s most vital organs, the heart, beating well into your older years.
4. Assess your diet.
One challenge of making a major life change is that you’ve been an adult for a while now. You have habits you’ve formed, habits that can be difficult to break. There’s a reason we refer to “eating habits”—throughout our lives, we become habitual eaters, for better or worse.
Now is time to break up with a bad diet. Are you eating plenty of protein, fiber, and fresh fruits and vegetables every day? Are you choosing more fresh foods than packaged options?
A good place to start is your fridge and cabinets. Clear out the unhealthy foods that don’t support wellness. Go shopping for heart-healthy foods and begin taking targeted supplements to fill in gaps in your diet. Over time, you can build new eating habits that benefit your heart.
Your 40s are the perfect time to start taking charge of heart health. Will you make the decision to live a more vital life? I hope the four steps above will help you do so.
What have you found different about health in your 40s versus your 20s or 30s?
February 16, 2015Dr. Lou Ignarro
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