7 Ways to Keep Your Heart Young

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You may think that with each passing birthday, your heart turns the same age you do. But in reality, your heart can sometimes age faster than you do.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of adults assigned male at birth (AMAB) and 20% of adults assigned female at birth (AFAB) in the U.S. have a heart that’s five years older than their chronological age. For people who are Black, the gap can be as high as 11 years.  You’re never too old to reduce risk factors — and your heart’s age. Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Vikas Sunder, MD, shares these tips to keep your ticker healthy and young: 

1. Take care of your chronic diseases or conditions.

Keeping your blood pressure in the normal range can minimize your risk. The same goes for diabetes and high cholesterol. Other diseases, like thyroid disease, as well as some medications, may weaken your heart. Have regular checkups, follow your provider’s treatment plan and take your medications as prescribed. 

2. Stay active.

Your heart needs exercise to keep it in shape. Exercise increases your heart’s pumping power and helps deliver oxygen throughout your body. Regular exercise also helps keep weight and blood pressure managed and reduces stress. If you have an illness or disease that makes exercise difficult, look for a weekly exercise program that’s more suited to your abilities. “We recommend trying to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity — for example, doubles tennis or brisk walking,” says Dr. Sunder.  

3. Keep a good diet.

Another way to show care for your heart each day is by following a healthy diet. This is because many food ingredients can help keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels balanced. But take heart — you don’t have to eliminate all of your favorite foods completely. In fact, having a heart-healthy diet may just mean incorporating more things on your plate like whole grains, vegetables and lean protein. Dr. Sunder also recommends avoiding trans fats, as well as consuming saturated fats, salt and refined sugar sparingly. 

4. Stop smoking.

This is absolutely necessary to protect your heart. Tobacco is very addictive, and quitting is hard: The average person tries seven times before succeeding. Your chances of success increase if you use three different stop-smoking aids simultaneously. Tell your provider you’d like to quit and ask for a plan — it’s one of the best things you can do to care for your heart. 

5. Don't drink a lot of alcohol.

Reducing your alcohol intake is another great way to keep your heart in good shape. Excessive drinking has been linked to cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy and a greater risk of stroke. On a daily basis, it’s best to not exceed more than two drinks if you’re male and no more than one drink if you’re female. Not sure how much is too much? Here’s what generally counts as “one drink,” based on the type of alcohol:  

  • Beer: 12-ounce bottle. 
  • Wine: 5-ounce glass. 
  • Distilled spirits (like gin, rum, tequila): 1.5-ounce shot glass.

If you’re looking to change your alcohol consumption and don’t know where to start, talking to your healthcare provider is a great first step. They can provide personalized guidance based on your health status and drinking habits. 

6. Get regular checkups.

Sometimes your heart may need a checkup even if you don’t feel like you need one. That’s why it’s good to get regular exams so a physician can test your blood pressure, triglycerides, fasting glucose and cholesterol, or just discuss any symptoms you may be having. This way your healthcare provider can help identify heart problems before they cause any serious issues. 

7. Don't ignore unusual symptoms.

While getting regular checkups is important, it’s also crucial to listen to your body when it’s telling you something is up. If you develop any of these symptoms, contact a healthcare provider immediately: 

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Swelling in your legs.
  • Chest pain. 
  • Unexplained fatigue. 
  • Sudden change in exercise tolerance. 
  • Heart palpitations. 
  • Confusion. 
  • Dizziness. 

The Bottom Line

As you age, your heart may need some extra care and attention. But there are ways to make sure you’re keeping your heart young and healthy. By working on healthy habits and listening to your body, you’ll help keep your heart strong. If you have any specific heart conditions, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about the best ways to keep your heart healthy.