It’s never too early to protect yourself from heart disease — the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. That’s because heart disease and the conditions that lead to it, such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, can happen at any age but are on the rise in adults aged 20 to 44.
Your chances of developing heart disease also increase if you have a genetic predisposition, according to the CDC. If you have a genetic predisposition, your risk increases even more if you make unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking or eating a diet high in saturated fat.
Regardless of heart disease risk factors, these recommendations from the American Heart Association can help you maintain your heart health as you age.
For all age groups
- Follow heart-healthy eating plans, like the Mediterranean or DASH diet.
- Get regular physical activity. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (like brisk walking), 75 minutes of vigorous activity (like running), or a combination of both every week. You should also do muscle-strengthening activities two days each week.
- Quit smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke. Both increase your risk of heart disease and lung cancer.
- Learn the warning signs of stroke and heart attack. Call 911 immediately to prevent disability and save your life.
In your 20s
- Start getting regular wellness exams and important heart health screenings. This includes getting baseline measurements for cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index.
- Avoid sedentary behavior or sitting for too long, such as TV binge watching. It can lead to metabolic changes that impact your heart health.
- Prioritize getting enough quality sleep. Adults should get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
In your 30s
- Ask close family members about their health histories. If you haven’t had this discussion yet, now’s the time to ask, listen, and take notes.
- Tell your doctor about your family health history. The more your doctor knows about your family history, the better able they’ll be to screen you early for certain problems — and treat any problems they may find.
- Get long-term stress under control. It can lead to high blood pressure, which may damage your arteries. Make time to relax and unwind. Meditation and deep breathing exercises may help reduce stress.
In your 40s
- Maintain a healthy weight. In your 40s, your metabolism will likely start to slow down, making it harder to keep the pounds off.
- Find out your long-term risk for heart disease. Using a special calculation, your doctor can determine your 10-year risk of heart disease or stroke. They can recommend lifestyle changes and treatment plans to reduce your risk.
- Get a baseline fasting blood glucose test by age 45. After that, have a doctor check your blood sugar levels every three years.
- Pay attention to snoring. This may signal sleep apnea, a common condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
In your 50s
- Recommit yourself to lifestyle changes to prevent or control heart disease.
- Follow your treatment plan. By your 50s, you may be diagnosed with heart disease risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Taking your medication as prescribed can keep these conditions from getting worse and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
In your 60s and beyond
- Monitor your heart health numbers closely. As people get older, their blood pressure and cholesterol tend to rise. Your doctor may recommend more frequent bloodwork, and regularly checking your blood pressure using an at-home blood pressure monitor.
- Watch what you eat. As you get older, your body will likely need fewer calories. Excess weight causes the heart to work harder.