Aging itself is the factor that has the most significant effect on your heart. Heart disease goes up at a regular rate as you grow older. For about 5 to 10 years after menopause the rate increases, and then it assumes the previous age-related rate. Osteoporosis shows the same pattern. Other risk factors in your life also have a major effect on heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and a family history of early heart disease. Smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and your diet are very important factors. These are tough choices, but you have to make them. Now is the time.
Guidelines to heart health
The best way to keep your heart and blood vessels happy and healthy is through a combination of lifestyle modifications:
- Control your blood pressure.
- Stop smoking.
- Use relaxation techniques.
- Change diet to rebalance your blood levels: reduce the "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins) and increase the "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins).
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber.
Losing excess weight can help with blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and your sense of well-being. Taking a baby aspirin every day (if your doctor recommends it) may also be beneficial for your blood vessels. There is a full spectrum of medications to control blood pressure, used singly or in combination, with convenient once-a-day timed-release preparations.
Check with your doctor about:
- an exercise program
- cholesterol and blood pressure levels and lowering medications
- possible use of aspirin