Nine Heart Care Tips for Millennials
Being in your 20s or 30s is an exciting time. It often involves experiencing new things and discovering who you are as a person. Unfortunately, it is also a time when your health can start to go by the wayside.
“While there may not be immediate consequences, neglecting to care for your body while you are young may result in poor heart health as you age,” says Dr. Nicholas Hoeve, cardiologist at Bronson Advanced Cardiac Healthcare. “It is important to develop healthy lifestyle habits now, so that you can avoid heart complications in the future.”
Here are some tips to help you be more proactive about protecting your heart health, no matter what your age.
- Watch what you eat.
Pizza, burgers and Chinese takeout are all common food staples among the younger generation. The problem is that these foods are high in sodium and fat, which the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends avoiding. Consider swapping out fast food for whole grains, lean meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables. These foods are packed with nutrients that support a healthy heart.
- Exercise regularly.
“Moderate, daily exercise makes it easier for your heart to pump blood,” says Dr. Hoeve. “Physical activity increases oxygen levels in your blood and helps with circulation. Your chances of getting heart disease significantly decrease when you make exercise a part of your daily routine.”
- Drink in moderation.
Drinking excessively or consistently over time hurts your heart. The AHA recommends not exceeding two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. The more alcohol you consume, the higher your risk is for increased blood pressure and stroke.
- Stop smoking.
“Smoking puts you at a high risk for heart disease,” says Dr. Hoeve. “When you smoke, you deprive your heart and blood of oxygen, which is vital for your body to function. Smoking also ignites the growth of plaque in your arteries. As plaque builds, it can block your arteries which may cause a blood clot. If the clot is big enough, it can block blood flow through your artery. This results in a heart attack or stroke.”
- Prioritize sleep.
Sleeping too little or too much can overwork your heart. You can prevent heart disease by sleeping between seven and nine hours every night. This prevents calcium accumulation in your arteries. According to National Public Radio, calcium buildup is a warning sign of oncoming heart disease.
- Monitor stress and anxiety.
From working a 40-hour week to the demands of raising a family, stress can take its toll over the years. Not only does stress increase blood pressure, but it wears down the walls of your arteries. Relieve anxiety by practicing relaxation techniques. This may include deep breathing, meditation or participating in an activity that you enjoy.
- Schedule regular check-ups.
Even if you are not sick, it is important to visit your doctor’s office on a regular basis. This will help you to build a relationship with your doctor and his/her staff. They will be able to check your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and assess your lifestyle habits. These are all key factors in maintaining a healthy heart. It is important to know the condition of your heart health while you are young so that your doctor can monitor any changes as you get older.
- Know your family history.
Have any of your relatives had heart disease? If you answered yes, you may be at an increased risk for developing heart problems. Make it a priority to learn and talk about your family history with your doctor. Making your doctor aware of your genetic makeup helps ensure that you will receive care based on the risk factors you inherited from your family.
- Check your cholesterol.
The AHA recommends getting your cholesterol levels checked by age 20 if you have never been diagnosed with heart disease. These checks should occur every four to six years if you are in good health. If you are at a higher risk for heart disease, cholesterol checks should happen more frequently. Talk with your doctor to develop a care plan catered to your heart health needs.
Sources: heart.org, nih.gov, npr.org
Click here to learn your current risk for heart disease. Complete the heart disease risk assessment in February and be entered to win a Fitbit® and a one-month membership to the Bronson Athletic Club. Read the official rules here.
The Bronson Heart & Vascular team is committed to heart and vascular disease prevention, and sharing easy steps you can take to live a healthier life. Looking for a Bronson doctor to help you? For a complete list of providers at Bronson, visit bronsonhealth.com/find-a-doctor or call Bronson HealthAnswers at (269) 341-7723.