In a typical day, your heart beats 100,000 times. And in a lifetime, it beats more than 2.5 billion times. February is American Heart Month, a time to battle cardiovascular disease and educate ourselves on what we can do to live heart-healthy lives. Heart disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death for men over age 45 and women over age 55 in the United States.
How Does Your Heart Age?
The cardiovascular system, including the heart and arteries, undergoes normal changes as we age.
Your heart muscle becomes less efficient and must work harder to pump the same amount of blood through your body.
The ability to form new blood vessels declines in small arteries.
Blood vessels lose some of their elasticity and hardened fatty deposits may form on the inner walls, making your arteries stiffer.
Even the healthiest of hearts may lose up to 30% of cells (myocytes) as it ages. Evidence suggests that loss of a significant number of heart cells may contribute to the decline in cardiovascular health in older people.
How Can I Improve Heart Health?
Leading an overall healthy lifestyle will help improve your heart health.
Include physical activity in your daily routine. Try walking, swimming or other physical activities.
Eat a healthy diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Excessive sodium raises blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit. Your risk of heart disease will begin to fall almost immediately.
Don’t let stress get out of control. Develop an action plan to immediately start reducing your stress levels.
If you’re a caregiver, take time for yourself and your well-being. To give the best care, you must be in the best possible health yourself.