How to Keep Your Heart Healthy at Every Age

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Covid has been grabbing all the headlines lately, but heart disease is still the leading cause of death in men. The decisions you make throughout life—even long before you hit midlife—have a significant impact on your risk, which generally means a significant impact on your lifespan. Here’s what I tell my patients they can do at each stage to keep their heart in shape.

Ages 25 to 39: Establish good habits and ID your risk

How to do it:

  • Develop an exercise routine that yields at least 150 minutes per week of cardio to elevate your heart rate.
  • Adhere to a sleep schedule and develop strategies to control your stress.
  • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.
  • Research your family’s heart history to see if it puts you at higher risk.
  • Get your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar checked every few years.
  • And don’t smoke. (Duh.)

    Ages 40 to 44: Get the data

    How to do it:

    In addition to keeping up with blood tests, use the “ASCVD Risk Estimator” to estimate your ten-year risk of a heart attack or stroke.

    Then, take action based on what you find out.

    If your risk is:

    • < 5 percent, you’re in good shape.
    • ≥ 20 percent, you may need to make lifestyle changes and should also strongly consider a statin to lower your cholesterol.
    • Between 5 and 20 percent, you’re in a gray zone and need additional information. Docs may test your blood for lipoprotein(a), which indicates an elevated heart-disease risk, or you may get a calcium score based on a CT scan of your chest. This determines if you already have hardened plaque in your arteries.

      Ages 45 and up: Stay vigilant

      How to do it:

      This is where the rubber hits the road. Beyond what you’ve been doing, you need to be vigilant about heart-disease symptoms.

      • Talk to your doctor—right away—if you have decreased stamina and shortness of breath. This may warrant a stress test.
      • If you have chest discomfort during physical exertion or sustained chest discomfort or shortness of breath at rest, go to the ER; it could be a heart attack.

        This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Men’s Health.

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