Heart Your Heart
 

Heart Your Heart at Any Age

20s  30s   40s   50s>  60s and Beyond

Women of all ages should know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Here are some tips on what you should do at each stage of your life to take care of your heart and know when to see a doctor:

20s 

If you're in your 20s, you're probably not thinking about heart disease and how lifestyle choices you make today can have long-term impact on your health.  It's important to point out that it is never too early to step up and be the Queen of your heart and the older you get, the harder it is to change your habits.

Here are some small day-to- day decisions you can make in your 20s that can have a lasting effect on your health for the future:

  • Gather information about your family history. Get a physical to see what your baseline numbers are. By numbers we are talking about your blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, BMI (body mass index) and waist measurement. L​earn more about these numbers and why they're important.
  • Stop smoking or don't start.
  • Begin an exercise routine.
  • Start limiting your caffeine. There is a link between caffeine intake and heart disease.
  • Drink in moderation. For women, moderation is considered no more than one drink per day. The American Heart Association defines a drink as 1-1/2 fluid ounces of 80-proof spirits (such as bourbon, scotch, vodka, gin, etc.); 1 fluid ounce of 100-proof spirits; 4 fluid ounces oz. of wine or 12 fluid ounces of beer. Drinking adds calories to your diet and it can increase your blood pressure.

30s

When you're in your 30s, you may become more focused on your career or your family or both. You should make sure you make the time to take care of yourself.

  • You should see your doctor and have a repeat physical to ensure your numbers (blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, BMI and waist measurement) have not changed. L​earn more about these numbers and why they're important.​
  • If you haven't already, stop smoking.
  • At 30, you also need to also consider those things that may increase your risk of heart disease such as stress, insufficient sleep, and food choices (reduce the amount of salt and sugar in your diet). See our eat healthy tips to heart your heart.
  • Talk to your doctor about certain medications that could increase your risk of developing heart disease.
  • You need to continue exercising, but focus on weight training to strengthen your muscles. Since you are busier at this age, you may have to become creative with ways to combine activities to achieve goals. For example, park farther away from your office entrance to increase your amount of walking. If you have kids, find activities to do as a family such as walking pushing a stroller or pulling a wagon or play games such as baseball, basketball, rollerblading, bike riding, etc. The key is to increase your heart rate.
  • Drink in moderation. For women, moderation is considered no more than one drink per day. The American Heart Association defines a drink as 1-1/2 fluid ounces of 80-proof spirits (such as bourbon, scotch, vodka, gin, etc.); 1 fluid ounce of 100-proof spirits; 4 fluid ounces oz of wine or 12 fluid ounces of beer. Drinking adds calories to your diet and it can increase your blood pressure.

40s

In your 40s, you may feel like you are too set in your ways to make healthy lifestyle changes and you may feel like it is hard to make time for yourself. It is time to invest in your own health and focus on prevention.

  • Recheck your family history and share any new information with your doctor.
  • Get a complete physical exam and take note of your blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, BMI and waist measurement. High numbers can indicate warning signs and your risk of developing heart disease. L​earn more about these numbers and why they're important. If you have not already had a physical, it's important to have baseline screenings done by the time you turn 45.
  • Measure your weight and BMI.
  • Keep track of your waist circumference.
  • Know your blood pressure (every office visit or at least every 2 years if blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg -more often if you have a higher risk).
  • Know your cholesterol ("fasting lipoprotein profile" to measure total, HDL and LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides). Screen every 5 years for normal risk people; more often if any of the following apply to you:
    * Total cholesterol above 200 mg/dL
    * Your HDL (good) cholesterol is less than 50 mg/dL
    * LDL (bad) cholesterol above 100 mg/dL
    * Triglycerides 150 mg/dL or higher
    * You have other risk factors for heart disease and stroke
  • Have a heart exam. This includes checking your heart rate, pulse, breath sounds, heart sounds skin color, and checking for swelling in arms or legs.
  • Get a fasting blood glucose check (need to get a baseline by the time you're 45 then every three years; and you may be required more often if you are pregnant, overweight, diabetic or at risk for becoming diabetic).
  • In your 40s, you may notice that it is harder to control your weight. Make time to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.
  • Focus on your diet and eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, with fiber-rich, whole grains. Eat lean meats and skinless poultry and have fish at least twice a week. For dairy, pick fat-free,1 percent fat and low-fat products. Also, make sure you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars as low as possible.
  • If you haven't already, stop smoking.

50s

In your 50s, your body is quickly changing. In fact, the number of women who have heart attacks increases dramatically once you turn 55 - especially after menopause. The good news is, it's not too late to take control of your heart health.

  • It is important to choose foods with the lowest sodium content to help you prevent or control high blood pressure. Also, Choose foods low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars.
  • Know your numbers​ and talk to your doctor about suggestions to make lifestyle changes if your numbers have increased over the years or if they are higher than they should be.
  • Drink in moderation. For women, moderation is considered no more than one drink per day. The American Heart Association defines a drink as 1-1/2 fluid ounces of 80-proof spirits (such as bourbon, scotch, vodka, gin, etc.); 1 fluid ounce of 100-proof spirits; 4 fluid ounces oz. of wine or 12 fluid ounces of beer. Drinking adds calories to your diet and it can increase your blood pressure.
  • If you haven't been exercising, now is the time to start. Pick an activity that is fun for you and start slowly. And if you have been exercising for a while, remember to change up your routine every once in awhile so you won't get bored. Your goal is to exercise 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week.
  • Rather than trying to look like you did 20 years ago, your goal should be to feel like you did then. Finding the balance of healthy eating and regular exercise will allow you to feel better and reach or maintain a healthy weight. It can also help you have the recommended waistline measurement for your age - less than 35 inches.

 60s and beyond

At age 60 and beyond, prevention for heart disease remains the same, healthy diet and exercise. At this age, you have lost some of your body's natural defenses against heart disease. This happens because of changes in hormones and can cause high cholesterol. It is important to remember to :

  • Track your numbers (blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, BMI and waist measurement.) Continue regular check-up with your doctor.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Watch your diet and be careful with pre-packaged or frozen meals because these may include hidden calories and fat or too much salt.
  • It may be difficult but make physical activity a priority. For some women, taking short brisk walks (as little as 10 minutes) throughout the day or water aerobics are good ideas. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week.
  • Ideas that may help you maintain a healthy weight include serving and eating smaller portions, eating nutrient-rich foods and routinely exercising.

  All age groups need to know the signs of a heart attack:

  • Any new onset fatigue or sudden onset weakness, abdominal pain, nausea, jaw pain, back pain, shortness of breath, sweating, neck pain should be assessed by your doctor.
  • Heart Attack pain is often subtle (especially in women) and may radiate down your arms or into your jaw and face area.
  • Sometimes the pain presents in the middle of your shoulder blades.
  • Heart attacks are usually a combination of the above symptoms.

If you have one or more of these symptoms, it is most beneficial to call 911 so that treatment can begin immediately.

Learn more about heart health for women.

Source: Our Lady of the Lake Cardiac/Vascular Nursing and American Heart Association

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