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Categories > Heart Health > Heart disease: Prevention

How to care for your heart in your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond

Some people think of heart disease as a condition that only strikes in old age, so they don’t concern themselves with their cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth: Not only does a man’s risk of heart disease increase at age 45 (for women, it’s age 55), the lifestyle choices that you make as a child and young adult affect your risk of developing heart disease over time. Taking care of your heart is a lifelong responsibility. To preserve your health, follow the age-appropriate advice below:

In your 30s (and younger)

  • Subscribe to good, clean living. You can lower your risk of heart disease by following a low-salt, low-sugar, low-saturated-fat diet that includes lots of fresh produce; staying at a healthy weight; exercising regularly; and quitting smoking, if applicable.
  • Know your numbers. Men and women aged 20 and older should have their cholesterol screened at least once every 5 years, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Tests should be sooner if there’s an increased risk of heart disease. All adults should have their blood pressure checked once every 2 years or more often if they have high blood pressure.
  • Take control of stress. Thirtysomethings busy climbing the corporate ladder and starting a family may feel anxious and stressed that there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. But, over time, stress can raise heart disease risk. De-stress regularly: Exercise, have heart-to-hearts with a friend or try relaxation therapy. If you’re overwhelmed, ask your healthcare provider for help.

In your 40s

  • Try to lose a few. The number on the bathroom scale tends to creep up over time. If you’re overweight, you may be able to reduce your risk of heart disease by losing 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight through diet and exercise.
  • Get enough sleep. If you cut back on rest to squeeze all your responsibilities into your day, stop: Experts believe that there’s a link between sleep deprivation (sleeping less than five to six hours per night) and high blood pressure. Getting shut-eye for seven to eight hours seems to have a protective effect.
  • Keep diabetes on your radar. Many patients with cardiovascular disease have diabetes and vice versa. Being aware of your diabetes status can be heart-protective. If your blood pressure reading is higher than 135/80 mm Hg, your doctor should test you for diabetes.

In your 50s (and beyond)

  • Stay physically active. You might not feel like the athlete you once were, but don’t retire your sneakers just yet: All adults need to be physically active for 30 minutes most days of the week to ward off heart disease. It doesn’t have to be intense exercise for it to be beneficial, so go for long walks, play golf, take a yoga class or sign up for water aerobics.
  • Learn about CRP. C-reactive protein (CRP) levels increase in your body when there’s inflammation, which has been linked to the presence of heart disease. A simple blood test can measure your CRP levels. While the test isn’t right for everyone, your doctor may recommend that you get tested if you’re at increased risk of developing heart disease during the next decade.