The heart is the hardest-working muscle in the body. It pumps out about 70 milliliters (two ounces) of blood each time it beats, a task it completes more than three billion times throughout our lifetimes. It should come as no surprise that as we age, our hearts begin to weaken from decades of hard work. With 108 million people older than 50 in the U.S., taking charge of your health is essential so you can make the most of the second half of your life.
In honor of September as Healthy Aging Month, here are four ways to prioritize your heart health as you age.
1. Follow a Mediterranean lifestyle.
While you can make many nutrition choices, I abide by and recommend the Mediterranean meal plan. Incorporating the traditional flavors and cooking methods of countries like Italy and Greece, research shows the Mediterranean lifestyle helps prevent heart disease and stroke. Following this plan is simple when you remember these tips:
- Eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables with the primary colors red, orange and green.
- Use olive oil instead of butter to lower your cholesterol level.
- Eat fish at least twice a week. Fatty fish, like salmon or albacore tuna, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation.
- When choosing the meal plan that’s right for you, be sure to consult your physician.
2. Get aerobic exercise three times per week.
Moderately paced walking on a flat surface is all you need.
3. Take daily preventive medications.
For those who haven’t had any heart issues, cardiac events or had only one, I recommend a daily dose of aspirin to help decrease plaque burden and calcium deposits. You may remember a recent study saying not to follow this recommendation, but it meant that a daily dose of aspirin isn’t a blanket statement for everyone. You should consult your physician before starting or stopping any medication.
If you have any concerns, Arkansas Heart Hospital has several heart screenings to check your calcium scores, blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure and more. With the right information, you will understand how to move forward with lifestyle and risk-management changes to keep your heart healthy. Eliminate uncertainty by speaking with your physician or getting a referral to see a member of our medical team. Learn more on the hospital's website.
Dr. Mahesh Bavineni is a cardiologist at Arkansas Heart Hospital and is board-certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular diseases, adult echocardiography and nuclear cardiology.