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Heart Health After 50; What to Watch For

Aug 16, 2021

Heart Health After 50; What to Watch For

Heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of concern for men and women aged 50 and over. Cardiovascular disease begins to affect men in their 50s, while women in general won't see a spike in risk until their 60s. No matter our age or gender, we can take steps to protect our hearts and our health.

The big news when we talk about heart health - at any age - the advice is the same for everyone. The most important recommendations I give my patients is to not wait until a certain age to become heart conscious. Certainly, don’t wait for a first heart attack or a doctor to diagnose some form of heart ailment. Sadly, for 60% of people, suffering a fatal heart attack is their first sign of heart abnormality. They waited too long to become concerned, and it cost them their life.

Let’s start with some basic recommendations that everyone can do to improve their heart health:

  1. Exercise at least 3 hours per week. Many of my patients prefer to break their exercise into six 30-minute sessions and take one day per week off. These sessions can be walking, riding a bike, lifting weights, stretching, yoga, gardening. Any activity that gets us moving and off our behinds. Pick an activity that is fun to do, otherwise we will stop doing it.
  2. Reduce our consumption of processed foods. This includes any foods that come in a bag, a box, in a can or pre-cooked. Reduce the times we eat fast food or have food delivered to our front door. The calories in these foods are very high and the salt content is usually more than twice what is recommended.
  3. Lose weight. The single biggest factor in most of our health challenges, including heart health, is being overweight. Find a program that works with long-term results. Avoid any program that asks us to take prescription medications or hormones to assist with weight loss.

Here are some indicators to watch for regarding our heart health as we approach our fifties:

  • Getting out of breath with minimal exertion – if we feel short of breath just walking or performing simple tasks, this can be a warning flag of heart disease. If we have a reason to feel out of breath, like climbing a flight of stairs, this is probably not an indicator of heart problems. Being out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs is an indicator we are likely out of shape, not approaching heart disease.
  • Can we sit on the ground and get up again without using our hands? An inability to do this is linked to mortality in adults over 50. This simple test gives us indications of possible heart disease, joint problems and flexibility issues. Try this one by yourself and the results might be surprising.
  • The easiest, and maybe most effective, way to gauge our heart health can be done in 30 seconds with two fingers. Measure our resting heart rate by placing our index and middle fingers on our wrist just below our thumb. The number of heart beats per minute while we are at rest is a real-time snapshot of our heart health. Generally, any count above 75 beats per minute is a reason to see a doctor and get things checked out.

No matter our age, take great care and interest in keeping our hearts healthy. Be Blessed.

Category: Dr. Sterling