The risk of heart disease increases with age for all men, and maintaining cardiovascular health becomes an even more important priority than ever before. You may find yourself adding supplements to your daily regimen and talking to your doctor about medications to lower cholesterol. However, when it really comes down to it, the most important steps that anyone can take to help prevent heart disease fall into one of two main categories: Remaining physically active and maintain a healthy weight. Dive further into these categories, and there are six essential factors which work together to decrease the risk of heart disease by as much as 90 percent.
Physical Activity and Heart Health
Exercise is key to keeping muscles strong, and the heart is the most important muscle of all. With physical activity, it becomes stronger and more efficient and pumping blood throughout the body. Furthermore, living an active lifestyle can help reduce other risk factors for heart disease such as obesity. All it takes is 30 minutes of moderate activity, five days per week.
Diet and Heart Health
When it comes to the foods and beverages we consume, there are those that keep our cardiovascular system running smoothly and those that can leave it bogged down and sluggish. By focusing on proper nutrition, men can help ensure their heart remains healthy and strong. In most cases, this will include a diet that consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.
Body Weight and Heart Health
Extra body weight places stress on the body’s internal organs and structures, including the heart. In order to do its job adequately, the heart must work that much harder to compensate for the added pounds. The calculation of body mass index (BMI) is key to determining the ideal weight range of an individual based on their weight to height ratio. For men, this number should be between 18.5 and 25.
Blood Pressure and Heart Health
Elevated blood pressure is damaging to blood vessels and one of the key indicators that an individual may be at risk for heart disease. Blood pressure readings consist of two separate numbers. The top number (systolic) measures the amount of pressure in the arteries as the heart muscle contracts. The bottom number (diastolic) measures pressure in between heart beats. Ideally, systolic pressure should be below 120 and diastolic below 80.
Cholesterol and Heart Health
There are two types of cholesterol. Bad cholesterol (LDL) contributes to heart disease by helping plaque form within artery walls. Good cholesterol (HDL) helps keep this in check by locating LDL and carrying it out of the arteries and back to the liver. However, when there is an imbalance between these two types, LDL cholesterol can remain unchecked and develop fatty buildups. Generally speaking, healthy cholesterol will include levels of HDL that are above 40 and levels of LDL that are under 100.
Stress and Heart Health
While stress may not seem obviously linked with physical activity or healthy weight, the connection does exist. When people are under stress, they tend to make less healthy lifestyle choices. This can mean overeating, making unhealthy diet choices, or becoming less physically active. Finding ways to manage stress effectively is key to maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle.
Although heart disease may be the number one killer of American adults, that doesn’t mean that we are powerless against it. Even with a family history, focusing on these six factors will drastically reduce your own risk of cardiovascular problems as you age. To learn more about your heart health and to address any concerns you may have, contact Cardiovascular Institute of the South to request an appointment with a skilled cardiologist.