Heart health mistakes you need to stop before turning 40
After age 40, those vices and somewhat bad habits that were like nothing to you, start to take a toll on your overall health, especially when it comes to our heart.
According to Deepak Bhatt, MD, executive director of interventional cardiovascular programmes at Brigham and Women's Hospital Heart & Vascular Center, and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in the United States, a number of risk factors for heart disease start to go up significantly in a person's 40s.
Here are a few things you should do now to ensure your heart stays healthy:
Drop those extra pounds
Once you hit 40, you're at risk for gradual weight gain - the kind that slowly but surely expands your waistline and puts you at higher risk for heart disease.
"Your metabolism is slowing, so if you're doing what you've always done, you may start gaining weight," said Bhatt.
He advises to weigh yourself daily to keep future weight gain from catching you by surprise.
For consistent evaluation, check your weight first thing in the morning without any clothing on before you've eaten or showered.
While fluctuating a few pounds day to day is normal (diet, hydration, and hormones all influence your daily number), if the scale trends upward week after week, that's a sign you may need to make some diet adjustments.
Your goal is to stay within 15 pounds of the weight you and a doctor have identified as your ideal target.
Stop going back for seconds
Whatever you decide to nibble on, keeping an eye on your portion sizes is vital and can help you ward off weight gain. A diet lower in calories is a good idea. After 40, your metabolism starts to slow so overeating could lead to gradual, significant weight gain, which is bad for the heart.
Skipping second helpings and sticking to appropriate serving sizes are both effective ways to safeguard your heart and waistline.
As a rule of thumb, a serving of protein should be the size of a checkbook (three-ounce), a serving of grains should be the size of a tennis ball (half cup), and a serving of veggies should be the size of a baseball (one cup).
As for fats, consume no more one teaspoon of butter, one tablespoon of olive oil, or two tablespoons of nut butter.
If after finishing your meal and digesting for 10 minutes you're still hungry, sure, go back for more. The trick here is to check in with your hunger cues and only continue eating when you genuinely need to.
And to make sure you don't overdo it, stick to lower calorie options like fruits and veggies.
Don't isolate yourself
"Friends are critically important to heart health," said Michael Miller, MD, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "We know that social isolation, as we get older, really wreaks havoc on the heart."
One 2016 study in the journal Heart found loneliness and social isolation are as bad for you as smoking when it comes to your risk for coronary heart disease and stroke.
In fact, a lack of social relationships raises a person's risk for heart disease by 29 per cent, according to the report.
Friends help you to curb stress, so make an effort to maintain your friendships. Life is better when you have people to share your existence with.
Overdoing workouts - or not doing any at all
Ideally, you should exercise 30 to 45 minutes a day, three to four times a week, according to experts. However, if your workout is super-intense then too much of it may not be good.
Some research suggests too much vigorous exercise may damage the heart, especially later in life. Heavy exercise can also worsen underlying heart issues.
Learn your own limits. Recognise that you can't do in your 40s, what you used to do in your 20s. Having a five- to 10-minute warm-up and cool down in very important. Taking time to walk, foam roll, or stretch before and after vigorous exercise is always a good idea.
Take time to de-stress
There's no escaping stress. "It's just a part of life," Bhatt said. "But how you react to stress can make a big difference." Other heart experts agree.
"Stress is bad, but not being able to do anything about itto have no control to make it better or worse - is what's harmful in the long-run," he explained.
Meditation has proved helpful in combatting out-of-control stress. With or without a spiritual component, meditation can help you react to stress in healthier ways.
Stop smoking - including weed
According to experts, the rule to stop smoking is to keep trying. Statistics show that the average person who has successfully quit tried seven to 10 times before it worked.
Smoking tobacco is undoubtedly one of the worst things you can do for your heart. But the younger you quit, the better your prognosis.
You should also reconsider your marijuana habit. "Marijuana use can raise a person's risk of heart attack," Bhatt said. While the evidence is preliminary, research has linked marijuana use with both heart disease and stroke.
So, just quit. There are several treatments out there to help you achieve this. Talk to your doctor.