Heart health through the decades

heart-health-through-the-decades
Heart health through the decades

The heart, a muscle that tirelessly works from birth to death, is often taken for granted. However, many of us fail to provide our hearts with what they need to function optimally, such as a healthy diet and regular physical activity. According to the British Heart Foundation, cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes conditions like coronary heart disease, stroke, and blood vessel diseases, is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the UK. CVD claims the lives of over 160,000 people annually. Fortunately, many heart problems can be prevented, and in this article, experts share advice on how to develop heart-healthy habits at every stage of life.

During the teenage years, there are ample opportunities for physical activity, such as school PE lessons and cycling to friends’ houses. However, as social media and gaming become more prevalent, physical activity tends to decline. Additionally, teenagers often indulge in unhealthy food choices like chocolate bars, crisps, chips, and pizza. Curiosity may also lead them to experiment with cigarettes, beer, and cider. It’s important to note that even teenagers are not immune to the consequences of an unhealthy diet. Dr. Sarah Brewer, a medical doctor and registered nutritionist, warns that fatty streaks can start building up in the arteries during the teenage years. A study conducted by the University of Maryland suggests that early damage to the arteries may be irreversible and accumulative.

In order to fight cholesterol, there are certain foods that can be included in the diet. Oats, for example, are high in soluble fiber that binds with cholesterol and prevents its absorption. Swapping regular cereal for porridge, bircher muesli, or adding oats to breakfast smoothies can be beneficial. Nuts, particularly walnuts and almonds, are rich in monounsaturated fats that help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. These heart-healthy foods should be added to your shopping list this autumn.

Overall, it is crucial to prioritize heart health at every stage of life. By adopting healthy habits, such as maintaining a nutritious diet and engaging in regular physical activity, individuals can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and ensure a healthier future for their hearts.Extra virgin olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fats that can lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. It contains compounds like oleocanthal, which can reduce inflammation in the body. Consuming one tablespoon of Ancient Roots olive oil daily can provide heart-protective polyphenols.

Winter root vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash are not only high in fiber, which helps lower non-HDL cholesterol, but also contain potassium that aids in fluid balance and blood pressure regulation.

Leafy greens, such as kale, are packed with potassium, magnesium, and fiber. They also contain nitrates that convert to nitric oxide, which improves blood flow by dilating blood vessels.

Oily fish like salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids can increase HDL cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol, and reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream.

Dr. Martin Lowe, a consultant cardiologist, emphasizes the importance of exercise for heart health, especially for young people who tend to be less active in the digital age. Walking to school and participating in after-school clubs like football and netball can help incorporate daily fitness and socializing.

Developing good eating habits, such as consuming five different fruits and vegetables daily and minimizing fried food and sugary drink intake, during teenage years can make it easier to maintain these habits in adulthood.

In your twenties, with the transition from university to work and a busy social life, physical health can be neglected. Stress from joining the workforce and sleep deprivation can have negative effects on the cardiovascular system.

To support heart health during this phase, it is crucial to have a diet rich in vegetables and consider taking a daily multivitamin. Moderate alcohol consumption, as advised by UK guidelines (less than 14 units per week), is also recommended.Vitamin D supplementation is crucial for cardiovascular health, according to Dr Eamon Laird from Trinity College Dublin. He explains that numerous studies have shown a link between vitamin D and cardiovascular disease. Surprisingly, research has found that young adults between the ages of 18 and 39 often have low levels of vitamin D. This can be attributed to factors such as lack of sun exposure, poor diet, and unhealthy lifestyle habits.

To address this issue, the HSE recommends a daily intake of 15 micrograms (600iu) of vitamin D for healthy teenagers and adults aged 12 to 64 during the months of September to March. This supplementation can help combat the deficiency and promote better cardiovascular health.

Moving on to the thirties, this is a time when individuals are settling down, starting families, and dealing with the stresses of work. With less time for exercise and the pressure of preparing family meals, it’s common for fast and unhealthy food choices to become more frequent. However, this is the ideal time to adopt a Mediterranean diet, which is plant-based and includes whole grains, vegetables, fruits, olive oil, lean protein, oily fish, herbs, and nuts. This type of diet not only improves overall health but also increases fiber intake, which is recommended to be around 30g per day in the UK.

Dr Brewer explains that fiber helps with satiety, leading to reduced food intake, and also slows down cholesterol absorption in the gut, improving its processing by the body. Registered nutritionist Rob Hobson suggests making small changes to the diet, such as opting for wholemeal or wholegrain versions of carbohydrates and reducing the consumption of ultra-processed foods. Adding more vegetables, especially legumes, which are rich in fiber, is also beneficial. Easy ways to incorporate fiber into the diet include adding nuts and seeds to various dishes, including vegetables in smoothies, replacing some meat with lentils in recipes, and including high-fiber snacks in the daily routine.In their forties, men often develop beer bellies, while women going through perimenopause may notice their waist getting wider due to hormonal changes affecting fat storage.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood and cells that is necessary for hormone production, vitamin D synthesis, digestion, and organ function. The liver produces most of the body’s cholesterol, with the rest coming from food. Lipoproteins carry cholesterol in the blood, with high-density lipoprotein (HDL) being good for health as it helps remove bad cholesterol from the body. Too much bad cholesterol can lead to fatty deposits in blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.

To assess heart disease risk, women should have a waist circumference under 32 inches and men should have a waist circumference under 37 inches. Exceeding these measurements may indicate visceral fat, which is deposited around organs and can lead to increased cholesterol production and glucose processing issues.

Increasing intake of plant sterols, found in foods like broccoli, brussels sprouts, olive oil, pistachios, and sesame seeds, can help lower cholesterol levels. Plant sterols reduce the amount of cholesterol transported into the bloodstream, resulting in lower levels of bad cholesterol. If it’s challenging to incorporate more vegetables into the diet, a plant sterol supplement like Healthspan’s 800mg Plant Sterols can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

In their fifties, individuals often face the challenges of aging parents, teenage children, and adjusting to becoming empty-nesters. This decade can be overwhelming as financial worries and career stress can lead to poor sleep.As we age, we may start to experience common physical ailments such as bad backs, aching knees, and tennis elbows. These issues can become a constant annoyance in our lives.

Post-menopausal women face an increased risk of heart and circulatory disease due to the absence of the protective effect of oestrogen.

Dr Brewer emphasizes the importance of having a health check as we age, as blood pressure, glucose levels, and cholesterol tend to worsen. Early diagnosis is crucial.

Men who have gained weight and wake up feeling groggy may be suffering from sleep apnoea, a potentially dangerous sleep disorder. Sleep apnoea increases the risk of heart attacks. Dr Brewer advises individuals to ask their partners if they snore or if they stop breathing while sleeping.

For those at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), it is recommended to consult with a GP about the suitability of statins. Statins are drugs that block a substance in the liver necessary for cholesterol production. They are widely recommended by doctors to reduce cholesterol levels. However, managing cholesterol through diet and lifestyle changes should be prioritized.

Engaging in cardiovascular exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and cycling can help reduce bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol. Additionally, maintaining a healthy diet low in saturated fats is crucial for managing cholesterol levels.

The retirement years can be a busy period for many older adults, as they take on responsibilities such as looking after grandchildren, volunteering, gardening, and walking dogs. However, some individuals may find themselves feeling increasingly isolated and spending more time alone.

Loneliness can have serious consequences, as a study published in the US Journal of College of Cardiology found that social isolation and loneliness increased the risk of hospitalization or death from heart failure by 15% to 20%.

Maintaining social contact is essential, and Dr Brewer suggests using social media as a means to keep in touch with friends and family.

Loneliness and social isolation are more common in men and are associated with smoking and obesity, both of which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

If you experience chronic pain, it is advisable to discuss pain relief options with your GP.New research has shown that older individuals who regularly take NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, may have an increased risk of heart attack. Dr. Lowe suggests that it would be wise for individuals to purchase a blood pressure monitor for home use. A healthy blood pressure reading falls between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, while anything above 140/90mmHg is considered high and should be shared with a doctor. Additionally, individuals can monitor their pulse at home by using a timer to count the number of heartbeats in 15 seconds and then multiplying that number by four.

About News Team

Hi, I'm Alex Perez, an experienced writer with a focus on lifestyle and culture news. From food and fashion to travel and entertainment, I love exploring the latest trends and sharing my insights with readers. I also have a strong interest in world news and business, and enjoy covering breaking stories and events.

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