It is already obvious that your heart is the main part of your circulatory system and it is responsible for just about everything that gives you life. Your heart pumps the blood to arteries and veins and these vessels are responsible for pumping blood to all the body and major organs.
Your heart is a powerful muscle that circulates blood throughout your body. A healthy adult heart is approximately the size of a clenched fist. The heart has two chambers, one on each side named atria and ventricles. The right side pumps blood to the lungs, which uses it to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. The left side supplies the body with oxygen-rich blood. The heart’s electrical system regulates the heart’s pace and coordinates the contraction of the top and bottom chambers.
This efficient pumping machine becomes less working as we peak in our age, and is all related to aging. To age better, keeping the heart healthy is the most important factor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease accounts for one in every four fatalities in the United States each year.
How Does Heart Ages?
Our heart is a muscular structure. It has the potential to degrade over time. The heart naturally enlarges slightly as people age, acquiring thicker walls and slightly bigger chambers. The expansion in size is mostly attributable to the expansion of individual cardiac muscle cells.
Changes in Blood Vessels. Certain changes in the heart and blood arteries are a natural part of aging. As we age, our arteries get stiffer and less flexible. Medically known as arteriosclerosis. This causes our blood pressure to elevate. The heart needs to respond to the rise in blood pressure by pumping harder and adjusting the timing of its valves. Repair of damaged blood vessels (angiogenesis) also slows down with age. These modifications make the heart more susceptible to age with time
The Left Ventricle. The wall of the left ventricle of the heart gets thicker with age, according to researchers. This results in a decrease in the amount of oxygen-rich blood delivered to the body. The heart compensates by strengthening and pumping more forcefully.
Resting Heart Beat/Sitting Heart-rate Slows. The sitting heart rate of older people is slower than younger people (but the same when lying down). This reduced pace is assumed to be due to a loss in heart-brain communication due to fibrous tissue and fatty deposits on the nerves. To compensate, the heart raises the diastolic blood pressure.
The Heart Size & Shape. A healthy 70-year-heart old contains 30% fewer cells than the heart of a 20-year-old. Due to aging, the heart cells die and the remaining cells enlarge to compensate for the difference. The cardiac cells of an older individual may be up to 40% bigger than those of a younger individual. This also leads to enlarging heart size. Aging also increases myocardial collagen deposition. With the rearrangement of cardiac muscle mass, the heart’s form changes from elliptical to somewhat spherical as per new research.
Cardiac Function. The alterations to the vasculature and the heart itself result in an overall decrease in the heart’s efficiency. While the resting heart rate of a person sleeping flat remains relatively constant as we age, it typically falls in a sitting posture.
Changes In the Conductive System. By the age of 50, the heart has lost 50-75% of its natural pacemaker’s cells. These alterations may impair cardiac conduction efficiency and contribute to a drop in maximum heart rate, affecting overall heart health.
However, other additional charges associated with aging are caused or exacerbated by controllable variables. These conditions, if left untreated, can progress to heart disease.
What is Your Heart Age? The majority of individuals in the United States have a heart age that is greater than their chronological age, putting them at an elevated risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Heart age is determined by a number of factors, including your age, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, as well as your food, physical activity, and smoking status. A younger heart age correlates with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Following risk factors are associated with heart aging.
- Age. After age 55, one’s chance of developing heart disease increases as the blood vessels harden and a lifelong buildup of plaque in the arteries begins to obstruct blood flow. In the U.S., the average age for a first heart attack in men is 65.
- Gender. Men get heart disease around ten years sooner than women. Generally, estrogen protects women until menopause, when their risk of heart disease increases to equal that of males.
- Familial History. One’s chance of developing heart disease is increased if the father or brother were diagnosed before the age of 55, or if the mother or sister were diagnosed before the age of 65.
- Physical Inactivity. According to recent World Health Organization estimates, physical inactivity directly contributes to around 10% of premature deaths globally, a rate comparable to that of smoking and obesity. Physical inactivity can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. The more time you spend sitting, the less you move, and the less you move, the greater your risk.
- Obesity. Obesity contributes to heart disease in three ways. It has the potential to alter your cholesterol levels. By building up Low-Density Proteins (LDLs) which are proven bad for health and reducing the level of good High-Density Proteins. Secondly, it causes blood pressure to rise which is itself a cause of heart problems. Thirdly, it also results in diabetes. Individuals who are overweight or obese also have a significantly increased risk of having diabetes. The American Heart Association estimates that at least 68% of patients aged 65 or older who have diabetes also have heart disease and obesity.
- Smoking. Cigarette smokers have 2-4 times increased risk of developing heart disease compared to nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke exposure can also be hazardous. While nonsmokers who are routinely exposed to secondhand smoke have a 25-30% greater risk of heart problems.
- Ethnicity. Certain demographic groupings face more dangers of heart diseases than others according to Harvard Health. African Americans are more likely to have heart disease than whites, but Hispanic Americans are less likely. Certain Asian ethnic groups, for example, East Asians, have lower rates, whereas South Asians have greater rates.
Around 92.1 million individuals in the United States have some sort of heart disease. Each day, over 2,200 individuals in the United States die of cardiovascular disease, an average of one death every 40 seconds. In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death.
Obesity and hypertension are increasing the risk of heart disease in persons aged 35–64.
HOW TO MAINTAIN HEART HEALTH.
You don’t have to do much to maintain heart health and promote healthy aging. Here are a few methods mentioned that are also clinically proven to slow down heart aging as well as promote a healthy heart.
1. Stop Smoking
Avoid smoking or using tobacco. Smoking cessation helps to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, with the risk-reducing rapidly in the first year to two years following quitting and then declining more slowly over time. After quitting smoking, your heart rate lowers, promoting better heart health. After 12 hours, your blood carbon monoxide level returns to normal, enabling more oxygen to essential organs like your heart. After four years, your risk of stroke lowers to that of nonsmokers. After five years of abstinence, the body has recovered sufficiently for the arteries and blood vessels to begin to expand once more. Learn more methods to reduce your tobacco intake by reading our article here and the timeline after quitting smoking here.
2. Limit Alcohol
Consuming an excessive amount of alcohol raises your chance of developing a variety of health issues, including hypertension, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, liver disease, depression, suicide, accidents, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism. So always keep your alcohol intake in moderation. Moderate alcohol consumption means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. There is some evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may assist modestly in increasing “healthy” HDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, researchers claimed that the antioxidant resveratrol may benefit heart health. Resveratrol exhibits protective effects against blood vessel damage; read more about this antioxidant molecule here
3. Mind Your Weight
When you are obese, your heart must work more. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the strain on your heart, protects you against high blood pressure, and lowers your cholesterol, all of which contribute to a healthy heart. According to British Heart Foundation, you must measure your waist circumference to determine if you are overweight. Women’s waists should be less than 80cm (32 inches), while men’s waists should be less than 94cm (37 inches). This is 80cm (32 inches) for women and 90cm (35 inches) for males of a South Asian origin who are at a higher risk.
4. Stay Active
Maintaining a healthy weight requires balancing the calories you consume and the calories you burn through physical activity. For instance, a recent study found that around 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day (such as brisk walking) appears to be adequate to totally offset the detrimental effect of a sedentary lifestyle on the risk of premature mortality.
An interesting research study of older individuals found that low amounts of physical exercise may also be beneficial. Nearly 6,000 American women aged 63 to 97 wore an accelerometer for seven days to track their sitting, standing, and movement time. The researchers found that simply spending more time standing, without doing any additional exercise, dramatically reduced the chance of early mortality during a 5-year period. Compared to sedentary women (less than 45 minutes standing per day), those who stood the most had a 37% decreased risk of mortality. For further reading, you can refer to our article about what exercises are beneficial for you at what age click here.
It is generally recommended to aim for at least 150 minutes of physical exercise each week, if feasible. Each day is ideal. It does not require to be completed in one go. There are many types of smartwatches available now that monitor your activity levels, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. These digital gadgets provide an additional benefit to track your health on your own self. A special physical activity guideline is available by CDC, from people of all ages can benefit Alternatively, you might download and use the NHS Couch to 5k app and push yourself to improve your fitness level through jogging.
5. Reduce Trans fats & Manage Diet.
The aim of a heart-healthy diet doesn’t mean that you should remove all types of fats from your diet. The balance strategy would be to increase the intake of fats like omega 3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats from nuts, legumes, and plant oils and decrease saturated fats and trans-fats. A study found that increasing our trans-fat intake by 2% can lead to 93% of the risk of a heart attack. These fats are found in manufactured foods like biscuits, pastries, butter, and some margarine. Also, the 2020-2025 American Dietary Guidelines propose keeping saturated fat to less than 10% of total daily calories.
Add proteins to your diet, as it has been re-proven in a recent March 2022 research that consuming protein from a variety of sources is categorized into eight stated sources: whole grains, refined grains, processed red meat, unprocessed red meat, chicken, fish, egg, and legumes may help reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure.
Using ground flaxseed is a simple method to include healthy fats (and fiber) into your diet. Flaxseeds are little brown seeds that are strong in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Flaxseed has been demonstrated in studies to help some people decrease their harmful cholesterol levels.
As we age, our bodies become more sensitive to salt, which can result in leg and foot swelling. So, it is generally advised to avoid salt intake later in life. According to the American Heart Association, it is recommended that:
- Per day, healthy individuals should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium (about a teaspoon of salt)
- The average adult should consume no more than 1,500 mg of salt per day.
An eating plan such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is an example of one that can assist you in lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, two factors that can lessen your chance of developing heart disease. It has been studied to reduce heart risks up to 40% if followed properly. Choose nutrient-dense foods over nutrient-deficient meals, which are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients but low in calories. A heart-healthy eating plan may include the following,
- Fruits and vegetables
- Beans, peas, and other legumes
- Lean fish and meat options
- Fat-free dairy products
- Whole-grain foods
6. Don’t Forget Chocolate
Dark chocolate, when consumed in moderation, can do wonders for your heart health. The health benefits of dark chocolate are maximum when it contains a high percentage of cocoa, around 80% or more. Cocoa in chocolate contains antioxidants that have been demonstrated to boost good cholesterol, decrease bad cholesterol, and enhance blood clotting ability. The study, which mentions that cocoa is great for heart health, has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN). Another research mentions that consuming three bars of chocolate each month may help lessen your risk of heart disease by 13% as compared to those who didn’t.
7. Reduce Stress
Stress is associated with heart disease in a variety of ways. It has the potential to elevate your blood pressure. As it has been studied by 2021 research that emotional stress can increase the risk of heart problems. Heart attacks can be triggered by extreme stress.” Furthermore, certain traditional methods of dealing with stress, such as overeating, frequent drinking, and smoking, are detrimental to one’s cardiovascular health.
Laugh a bit more! Laughter has been studied to reduce stress hormone levels, decrease arterial inflammation, and boost “good” HDL cholesterol. Meditation and deep breathing have been demonstrated to lower risk factors for heart disease such as hypertension. Experts conducted a review of dozens of studies published over the last two decades and discovered that meditation may alleviate a variety of risk factors for heart disease, making it worthwhile to incorporate into an overall program for continuous heart care. Simply sit quietly for a few minutes, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Exercise, listening to music, focusing on something quiet or serene, and meditation are all effective stress-management techniques.
8. Oral Health
This may sound unusual but there has been evidence of studies that your oral health has effects on heart health. Periodontal disease has been shown to nearly increase your chance of having heart disease up to double. Even tooth loss has been associated with the risk of having coronary artery diseases. The researchers studied data from over a million patients who had over 65,000 cardiovascular events (including heart attacks) and discovered a modest link between tooth loss (a benchmark for poor dental health) and coronary heart disease once age was taken into consideration. So, it is important to keep your oral health as equally important as any other factor. It is advised to
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Floss daily.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
9. Maintain a Good Sleeping Pattern
Without adequate sleep, you increase your chances of developing high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. These three factors can all increase your chance of developing heart disease. According to National Sleep Foundation, an average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. It is important to establish good sleeping habits. Consult your doctor if you experience regular sleep issues. One issue, sleep apnea, leads patients to stop breathing short several times throughout sleep. If you believe you may have it, speak with your doctor about doing a sleep study. And if you do have sleep apnea, seek treatment immediately. Study more about sleep apnea here.
Avoid exercising, eating high-fat or high-sugar meals, or drinking alcohol before bed.
10. Have a Regular Heart Checkup
It is always advised to keep a check on your health after one reaches the end of the 40s to be precautionary about the later ages. Maintaining a normal blood pressure range might help reduce your risk. The same is true for diabetes and hypertension. Other disorders, such as thyroid dysfunction, and certain drugs may impair the heart’s function.
Additionally, the American Heart Association (AHA) advises heart examinations to maintain optimal cardiovascular health.
Always consult your physician if you have shortness of breath, exhaustion, chest discomfort, or any other serious symptoms. Your doctor may conduct a physical exam or request blood tests and imaging to determine heart health. Imaging may involve a cardiac ultrasound, referred known as an echocardiogram, which examines the heart’s anatomy and function. Alternatively, your doctor may schedule an exercise stress test or myocardial perfusion imaging to see how your heart responds to stress (MPI).
At home, you can keep a check on blood pressure with a digital BP device. If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or other disorders, your blood pressure may need to be monitored more frequently. If your cholesterol level is normal, you should be tested every five years. If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or other conditions, you may need to check your cholesterol more regularly.
11. Don’ take Unusual Symptom for Granted.
Pay attention to your body. Consult your physician immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Heart palpitations.
- Sudden changes in exercise tolerance.
- Swelling in legs.
The heart is an incredible muscle, beating around 100,000 times every day. Your heart adapts to the needs of an aging body as you age. There are several factors that you cannot modify or control: your age, your gender, and your family history of heart disease (CVD). Then there are the things that are entirely within your control: smoking, physical activity, nutrition, and alcohol. Select foods low in trans and saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium. These small changes in early life can lead to a better life, better heart health, and to Prime with Time.