If you’re young and feel healthy, heart trouble later in life probably isn’t on your mind.
Don’t wait to work on keeping your heart healthy, though. You can take steps now to improve your heart health and change habits that could be setting you up for future cardiovascular problems.
Jolene Schiller, a Marshfield Clinic heart failure nurse practitioner, shared seven ways you can take care of your heart while you’re still young.
1. Quit smoking and chewing tobacco.
These habits don’t just put you at risk for lung, mouth, larynx and esophageal cancers. Smoking and smokeless tobacco contribute to high blood pressure by constricting blood vessels, which can damage your heart and kidneys.
Heart disease risk decreases and blood pressure usually improves after patients quit smoking and chewing tobacco.
2. Say goodbye to binge drinking.
Too much heavy drinking can weaken the heart muscle. This condition, known as cardiomyopathy, can lead to heart failure.
Men should limit themselves to two drinks per day and women to one drink per day. Avoid drinking large quantities of alcohol at once.
3. Don’t skip cardio.
Cardiovascular exercise lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol and decreases your risk for heart disease. Improve your heart health with 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise three or four times a week.
4. Watch your sodium intake.
It’s easy for busy young adults – from truck drivers to professionals – and families to reach for quick processed or fast food meals. These foods often are packed with sodium, which contributes to high blood pressure and increased heart disease risk.
Limit your daily sodium intake to the recommended 2,400 mg by eating lean meat, fish, fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains.
5. Avoid energy drinks.
Caffeine-filled beverages increase your heart attack and stroke risk by raising blood pressure and triggering arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm. Your risk further increases if you combine energy drinks with alcohol.
Limit caffeine intake to 500 mg per day and don’t consume energy drinks every day if you choose to drink them.
6. Get screened for depression.
Depression is reported in about one in 10 American adults and as many as one in three heart attack patients, according to the American Heart Association.
Depression is linked to physiological changes in your nervous system and stress hormone balance, which put you at risk for an arrhythmia. You’re less likely to follow healthy daily routines when you’re feeling down and overwhelmed by your situation
7. Know your health numbers.
Make note when your health care provider tells you your blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting blood sugar numbers. Ask how to get and keep these numbers in the normal range.