With heart health over the long term, optimizing behaviors in the younger decades is crucial.
When you’re in your thirties and forties, you may think of heart disease as an “older person’s problem.” You may accompany your parents to their doctor visits and help them learn about new heart-related diagnoses. Or, you may help an older loved one manage medications related to their heart. However, you may be surprised to learn that heart conditions do not happen overnight. Heart conditions are often the result of a lifetime’s worth of habits. When you are in your third and fourth decade, the daily habits that you adopt can go a long way toward influencing your future heart health.
At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we remain dedicated to providing our patients with the highest quality of care throughout their lifespan. Our goal is to support people through every health milestone and help you make changes that increase your quality of life over the long term. Heart health is an essential part of living well for a long time. Here’s what you need to know about optimizing your heart health when you are in your prime years of early adulthood.
Heart Health in the United States
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. Heart disease claims one life every 36 seconds in our country due to conditions such as heart attacks and coronary artery disease. The average age for a heart attack in men is age 65, and for women, it is 72. Unfortunately, heart disease in the U.S. is escalating, affecting people earlier in life. Experts note that 4 to 10 percent of people who have a heart attack are younger than age 45. Heart disease is becoming more common, but you are highly capable of optimizing your heart health now to avoid experiencing an adverse heart-related condition in the future. The AHA notes that up to 80 percent of heart disease is preventable.
Why You Should Strive to Optimize Heart Health
Your heart is not only an essential organ but may very well be the most essential organ. When your heart pumps, it supplies all of your body’s organs with fresh blood, and it helps return used blood to the lungs, where it can receive fresh oxygen. Your heart even supplies itself with blood, which is why keeping your heart’s blood vessels healthy is so important. When your heart is working well, you likely will not notice its function at all. It keeps ticking away, effortlessly, to help you go about your day and perform all of the activities that you want to accomplish. However, when your heart is not working well, you may have symptoms that profoundly interfere with your daily life, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, leg swelling, or feeling very tired.
Making a goal to optimize your heart health while you are young can significantly influence how well your heart serves you throughout your life. This is why you should strive to keep your heart healthy as part of an overall wellness plan.
The Best Habits You Can Adopt to Optimize Heart Health in Your 30s and 40s
In your thirties and forties, you can utilize your peak physical condition to optimize your heart health. Here are the best habits you can adopt to keep your heart healthy for decades.
Get the Recommended Amount of Physical Activity
Experts at the AHA recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (such as briskly walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (such as running or jogging) weekly to prevent heart disease. Depending on your time constraints and personal preferences, you can decide what type of activity best suits you.
Eat a Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables
Feeding your heart a diet rich in fruits, leafy green vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds can help supply it with the vitamins and nutrients that keep it in top working condition. Adding in healthy fats, such as fatty fish and olive oil, can help support your body’s balance of good cholesterol. The AHA recommends a Mediterranean diet for optimal heart health, which incorporates all of the aforementioned foods, and reduces dairy, red meats, and added sugar.
Get the Recommended Amount of Sleep
You may eat well and exercise during your 30s and 40s but, because of childrearing duties or professional stress, you may let your sleep hygiene slide. To promote optimal heart health, however, you need to avoid burning the midnight oil and, instead, make sure you are getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. This can help you avoid heart-related conditions such as stroke, down the line.
Floss Your Teeth Daily
Did you know that brushing your teeth and flossing your teeth daily are easy ways to keep your heart healthy and avoid future heart disease? Scientists are learning more and more about the connection between oral health and the health of your heart, as gum diseases seem to be associated with heart disease. Experts note that people with gum disease are two to three times more likely to experience a heart-related condition such as stroke or heart attack.
Stay Within a Normal Body Mass Index (BMI) Range
Maintaining an ideal body weight in your 30s and 40s can help keep your heart working optimally. Being overweight or obese can add strain to your heart because it forces your heart to pump harder to distribute blood around your body. This can cause the development of high blood pressure (hypertension), putting further strain on your heart and possibly leading to the development of plaques in your heart’s arteries.
Visit Your Healthcare Provider Regularly
Having a regular check-in with a medical provider when you’re in your 30s and 40s can help you stay current with preventive health care measures and keep you on track. A healthcare provider can monitor your cholesterol level and your average blood sugar levels to ensure you stay on track, minimizing conditions such as high cholesterol and diabetes that can lead to heart disease.
The Habits You Should Stop to Optimize Heart Health in Your 30s and 40s
Heart health is not just about adopting healthy habits—it’s also about banishing unhealthy ones. Here is what you should kick to the curb to optimize your heart health.
Stop Being Sedentary
Being sedentary is sometimes unavoidable in today’s world. For example, if you have a long commute to work, you must sit in a car, a bus, or a train. However, if you can incorporate a bike ride or walk into your daily commute, that can go a long way toward heart health. It is equally important to make sure you get up and walk around during the workday or use a standing desk, as research shows that sedentary behavior is associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Stop Smoking Cigarettes
Cigarette smoking can severely affect your heart and its blood vessels. If you smoke cigarettes, your heart will thank you for quitting, and there will be good news on the horizon when it comes to heart health. If you quit smoking in your 30s or 40s, your risk of coronary artery disease will be almost the same as that of a non-smoker after 15 years.
Stop Drinking Alcohol Excessively
You may have heard that drinking a glass of wine with dinner can have positive effects on your heart. While this may be true, drinking alcohol in high amounts—particularly binge drinking—is hard on your heart. If you have gotten into a pattern of drinking heavily (i.e., five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women in one 2-hour session), scaling back while you’re still in your early decades can significantly benefit your heart.
How to Optimize Your Health to Avoid Specific Heart Conditions
If you have certain heart conditions more common within your family, talk to your health care provider about optimizing your heart health in your 30s and 40s to avoid developing these conditions. There may be certain specific measures that you can take to avoid developing an abnormal heart rhythm, coronary heart disease, heart failure, or valvular heart disease that may not apply to the general population. This may be as simple as avoiding certain medications if you have a genetic condition such as long QT syndrome.
Partnering with Lompoc Valley Medical Center in the Fight Against Heart Disease
At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we understand the utmost importance of optimizing heart health to avoid adverse future cardiac outcomes. Contact our primary care team at Lompoc Valley Medical Center to learn more about heart disease or be evaluated or screened for heart disease.