You’re only as old as your heart is. Read that statement again. There’s a lot of truth in it and everyone should take heed of this wisdom. Knowing how to keep your heart youthful and vibrant, can help keep it from aging too fast, increasing your risk of many life-threatening cardiovascular diseases.
How fast is your heart aging? Have you given it much thought? Look in the mirror and see signs of aging – gray hair, wrinkles, age spots, and sagging jowls. However, we have no mirror to look at our heart’s aging process. Instead, we want to believe that our heart is aging at whatever age we may be. According to the CDC, about half of all American men and around 20 percent of American women, have a heart that is five years older than their birth age.
This accelerated heart aging sets the stage for elevated risks for a heart attack or stroke. Individuals, who’ve reached the age of 65 and older, are more susceptible to signs of aging damage to their heart and blood vessels. These signs can include:
- Plaque buildup in the arteries
- Reduced blood flow to the heart muscle
- Less physical activity can lead to the heart’s left ventricle becoming stiffer
- Lower heart rate leading to artery walls that have thickened, becoming less elastic
- Blood pressure that does not stabilize as quickly
Causes of premature aging of the heart
Why do many of us have a chronologically older heart than the day we were born? The answer is your risk factors. Risk factors are known to be related to diseases but not proven causal.
The more risk factors you have, especially if severe, will speed up your heart’s rate of aging. Here’s a look at risk factors prematurely aging your heart:
- Age. After age 55, heart disease increases as blood vessel become stiffer and plaque buildup over decades interferes with blood flow.
- Gender. Men will develop heart disease about ten years earlier than women. Estrogen generally protects women from developing heart disease until women go through menopause and estrogen levels drop. Then women are at the same risk as a man for heart disease.
- Family history. Anyone, whose father or brother had heart disease before the age of 55 or their mother or sister had heart disease before age 65, is at risk.
- Elevated blood pressure. Blood pressure measuring greater than 120/80 mm Hg can age the heart.
- Cholesterol. As cholesterol levels rise (especially 200 mg or higher), so does heart disease.
- Smoking. Whether a person smokes or exposed to secondhand smoke raises the risk.
- Weight. Being overweight or obese puts a strain on the heart.
- Diabetes. Individuals with prediabetes or diabetes are 2 to 4 times at greater risk of heart disease.
Individuals with many risk factors are more likely to be at risk for atherosclerosis, angina, heart failure, and a heart attack or stroke.
How to slow premature aging of your heart
None of us want an aging, weak heart. The good news is we do have control over how fast our hearts age over time. Staying ‘young at heart’ is possible, and here’s how to do it:
Regular cardio exercise is a top solution to strengthening the heart and reversing some aging. Exercise is the best way to show your heart’s aging process. Exercise causes exertion forcing the heart to pump more blood around the body to the muscles and lungs. When done consistently, it relaxes blood vessels and make the heart run more efficiently, both great for keeping blood pressure low.
Make healthy choices
The American Heart Association has identified top lifestyle choices to improve heart health:
- Don’t smoke tobacco
- Choose healthy foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Limit your intake of processed or fast foods.
- Maintain a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25.
Keep chronic conditions in check
Having several chronic conditions, such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or high blood pressure, takes a toll on the body including the heart. But, when you implement a self-care management program by having regular checkup with your doctor following their treatment plan and taking medications as prescribed, this goes a long ways by paying attention to your body and its symptoms.
Listen to your body
Contact your doctor immediately, if any unusual symptoms arise, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, feeling weaker or more tired than usual, or lightheaded/dizzy.
Keep alcohol consumption in moderation or abstain completely.
Excessive alcohol intake is no friend to your heart. Excessive is defined as men consuming more than two drinks in one day or women consuming more than one drink per day. It can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, or stroke. Heavy drinking also contributes to cardiomyopathy, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. What’s more, drinking large amounts of alcohol can cause weight gain, which contributes to heart disease.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.