Sometimes it can seem as though heart health is an ‘old person’s problem’.
The harsh reality is, that heart health is the biggest killer of women in Australia. Scary, right?
There’s no better time to start thinking about your heart than the present. This is because the earlier you start healthy heart habits, the better- you’ll carry them through to later life and set yourself up for the best health possible.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Read on to find out how you can care for your heart during every decade.
This is probably the most stressful decade of our lives, full of career, family and lifestyle changes- not to mention stressors placed upon our body from too much indulgence in not so healthy foods and alcohol.
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can adopt during these decades that will not only benefit your heart, but will make maintaining good health later in life a habit, as opposed to a chore.
The first: 30 minutes of exercise per day. This is a good, non-negotiable habit that we should all adopt early in life. Think less about exercise as a means of achieving the body you want but as a means of achieving longevity! The benefits of exercise for your heart are plentiful, from increasing blood flow to lowering blood pressure, and the additional positive effects on your mood are a bonus.
The second: look at healthy ways to cope with stress in your life. Stress can take a huge toll on heart health, with research showing that women who experience stress in the workplace are 40% more likely to experience cardiovascular disease than their non-stressed counterparts. If you can begin to implement healthy methods of coping with stress, such as daily mindfulness, meditation or even deep breathing exercises, you’ll be better equipped at dealing with stress for life, and your heart will thank you.
Big changes start happening to your heart during this decade- your risk of heart disease increases significantly, and your metabolism begins to slow down. A slower metabolism can mean an increased risk of weight gain, a big contributor to heart disease and other illnesses.
If you are in your 40’s and not already engaging in exercise on a daily basis, it’s time to consider how you can incorporate 30 minutes of movement into daily life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of a gym membership, consider less intimidating activities like walking, swimming and bike riding. Every movement counts!
If your family carries a history of heart disease, or you yourself carry a risk factor for heart disease, it could be worth considering particular nutrients that are beneficial for the heart.
Omega-3’s, found in fish oil, has been shown in many studies to be beneficial for heart health- this is thought to be due, in part, to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re not consuming 2-3 serves of fish per week, consider supplementing with fish oil on a daily basis. Other nutrients to look out for include turmeric, which is becoming popular in health circles thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, and CoQ10, specifically in the form of Ubiquinol (the easily absorbed form of CoQ10), which has been shown to have numerous benefits for heart health. If you’re unsure of where to start with supplementation, talk to your GP about options like Fish Oil and Ubiquinol for more information.
Your risk factor for heart disease increases dramatically again in your 50’s. Men and women in their 50’s who present at least two risk factors for heart disease are six and eight times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than their counterparts who possess no risk factors, so regular check-ups with your doctor are absolutely imperative. Vigilance is key, and the earlier your doctor catches signs of cardiovascular disease, the easier it is to treat.
It’s also worth checking in with your lifestyle at this point, this may be the time in your life when you begin to notice ‘wear and tear’, and find yourself experiencing minor health problems. So it’s time to get real: are you exercising for 30 minutes per day? Are you eating 5 serves of vegetables per day, and 2 serves of fish per week? Are you indulging in too much sugar? Are you drinking more than the recommended about of standard drinks per week? All of these lifestyle factors will directly affect your heart health.
Heart health isn’t a journey that starts later in life – good heart health starts now! By setting the right foundations, maintaining your health in your 50’s and beyond won’t be nearly as much of a struggle, as you’ll find yourself with fewer risk factors for serious disease.