How to Prevent Heart Disease at Any Age
You may associate heart disease with aging, and for good reason — individuals age 65 and older face a higher risk for the condition. This stems in part from how aging-related changes in your body overlap with risk factors for heart disease. For example, your arteries and heart muscle stiffen with age, making it more difficult to pump blood well during exercise.
Still, it’s never too early to prioritize a heart-healthy lifestyle. As heart disease-linked conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure grow increasingly common among young adults, many people are now becoming at risk for heart disease at an earlier age.
And even if you are young and in good overall health, the choices you make today can affect your heart health for years to come. Cardiovascular health issues like heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure often stem from a lifetime’s worth of health choices, including many you have control over.
Heart disease prevention tips by age
Since heart-healthy living is a lifelong practice, it may feel more manageable if you set specific goals and priorities impactful for your age group. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the top heart disease prevention actions to tackle during each decade of life. This is intended to be a high-level guide to prevention, so consult with your healthcare provider about more targeted priorities based on your individual health needs.
In your 20s
1. Quit smoking if you currently smoke
2. Search for a primary care provider if you don’t have one
3. Find your favorite physical activity and develop a fitness routine
You’re out in the real world, exploring what you want your life to look like. It’s normal to experience some anxiety during this exciting but nerve-racking time. Your cardiovascular health may not be top of mind as you navigate a stressful job search, adjust to the pressure of beginning a career, or start a family, but taking several heart healthy actions during this decade of life will put you on the right track early on.
Focus on building a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. That means quitting smoking if you currently smoke, figuring out which physical activities work for you, and getting in the practice of staying up to date with yearly doctor’s appointments. If you don’t already have a primary care provider, now’s the time to search for one.
In your 30s
1. Create a weekly routine that makes time for exercise
2. Prioritize your mental health — whatever that looks like for you
3. Contact relatives to build your family medical tree
There’s a good chance your calendar’s looking pretty packed these days. Momentum in your career may come with more responsibilities and later nights in the virtual or physical office. And for those who already have a family, or are thinking of starting one, maintaining work-life balance may be a challenge.
As you continue to build on the foundation you set in your twenties, here are three new action items to add to your health routine. First, remember your favorite physical activity? Make sure there’s a block of time in your schedule for it each week.
Since your mental health can significantly impact your physical health — and your risk for heart disease in particular — be sure to give your emotional well-being some attention during what may be a hectic time.
Some stress is to be expected when you have many responsibilities at work or home (or both), but if you’re concerned about your mental health, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for suggestions or resources. You can also check out Moodfit, a free mood-tracking app, or Insight Timer, an app that offers free guided meditations.
Lastly, since your family’s health history is a big predictor of your own risk for cardiovascular disease, take some time to contact relatives and figure out if heart health issues run in your family tree.
In your 40s
1. Continue to explore your exercise options
2. Reset your sleep routine
3. Stay current with annual check-ups and screenings
Does it feel like life has only gotten faster? Believe it or not, your metabolism has already begun to slow down. That means it’s time to amp up your workout routine, if you haven’t already. Enjoying your chosen exercise method is key to sticking with it in the long term, so if you haven’t found your go-to activity just yet, keep looking. If you’ve only ever worked out on your own, try a group class, online or in person.
It’s time to check in on your sleep hygiene, too. Regular sleepless nights have been linked to heart attacks, high blood pressure, and diabetes, so if you’re getting in less than an average of seven hours every night, try to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. Winding down at the same time each night, avoiding heavy meals just before bed, and spending plenty of time outside are just a few of the simple steps that might be able to help you get more rest.
At your annual physicals, be sure to discuss your risk for heart disease with your doctor and ask about recommended screenings for your individual health needs, including a fasting blood glucose test to screen for diabetes.
In your 50s and 60s
1. Keep an eye on key health numbers
2. Limit your sodium and cholesterol intake
3. Learn the warning signs of a heart attack
Your risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol will continue to increase as you age, so it’s important to keep track of your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol, follow the treatment plan your doctor has recommended, which may include diet changes, medication, or a combination of both. Even if your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are within a healthy range, you can only benefit from limiting your sodium and cholesterol intake.
You should also learn the warning signs of a heart attack, as your risk for one also increases with age: 65 is the average age of a first heart attack for a man, and 72 is the average age of a first heart attack for a woman.
Keep in mind that heart attack symptoms may appear differently in women than in men.
Remember, these suggestions are intended as a starting point. Your doctor can advise you on a more individualized plan of action based on your health history. And not only is it never too early to begin prioritizing heart disease prevention, but it’s also never too late. Don’t worry about what you should or could have done earlier in life — instead focus on the actions you can take to be as healthy as possible in the present.
Heart-healthy living for all age groups
Staying physically active and avoiding foods that are high in sodium and trans fats are simple ways to take charge of your health at any stage of life. Here are more specific suggestions for heart-healthy living in terms of diet and exercise.
As you plan a heart-healthy diet, opt for foods that are low in saturated fats and trans fats, which increase levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol — also referred to as “bad cholesterol” — in your blood. Low-fat dairy products and chicken are healthier alternatives to full-fat dairy products and red meats, which are high in saturated fats.
High sodium intake can increase your blood pressure, and the American Heart Association suggests aiming for 1,500 mg of sodium/day. Limit processed or prepackaged foods including soups, cold cuts, bread, and frozen meals since they contain sodium-based preservatives. And watch out for compounds that contain sodium as you scan the ingredient list, like sodium benzoate and sodium tripolyphosphate.
Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in a healthy range. Different activities offer various levels of intensity, and there are a variety of ways to get the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of aerobic activity . You should aim for about 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, or 75 minutes a week of a more intense activity. Many people start off slower and build their way up to a more intense routine.
Your pharmacy partner for life
At Alto, we’re committed to making it as simple as possible to protect your heart health and stay on top of cholesterol-lowering or blood pressure management medications. We offer free same-day delivery and medication management tools like reminders and auto refills in our app. And our team of pharmacists is always here to answer your questions by phone or chat, and will even remind you when your medications are due for a refill.
Reach out any time by phone at 1-800-874-5881 or in-app messaging.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.