How to Prevent Heart Disease at Any Age

Preventing heart disease means making smart choices now that will pay off for the rest of your life.

Lack of exercise, poor diet and smoking habits take a toll on your body over the years. Anyone, no matter your age, can take simple steps to keep their heart healthy during each decade of life. It all starts with one small thing.

All Age Groups

Eat Heart Healthy

  • Choose a healthy eating plan. The foods you eat may decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two key risk factors for heart disease.
  • Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans-fat, and sodium.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes, and seeds.
  • Limit eating red meat. In general, red meats such as beef, pork, and lamb, have more saturated fat than chicken or fish. The American Heart Association recommends that people limit lean meat, skinless chicken and non-fried fish to 5 ½ ounces per day, total.
  • When shopping, select lower dairy products such as Greek yogurt, skim milk, and cottage cheese.
  • Limit your sugar intake by drinking sugar-free beverages. Try including different fruits into your water for added flavor.

Get Physically Active

Only one in five adults and teens get enough physical exercise to maintain good health.

  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. This can include brisk walks, swimming, bicycling, jump rope, etc. You can also do 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity. Or, try a combination of both!
  • Health experts suggest muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work for all major muscle groups.

Know the Signs of a Heart Attack

It's never too early or too late to learn the warning signs of a heart attack. Not everyone experiences severe chest pain with a heart attack. And heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men.

Some common signs include: chest discomfort, lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting, and shortness of breath. Pay attention to your body and call 9-1-1 if you experience any of these symptoms.

Heart Healthy in Your 20s

Getting smart about your heart healthy early puts you far ahead of the curve. The things you do — and don’t—are a tell-tale sign of how long and how well you’re going to live.

Find a doctor and have regular wellness exams.

Healthy people need doctors, too. Establish a relationship with a physician so you can start heart health screenings now. Talk to your doctor about diet, lifestyle, and check your blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, blood sugar, and body mass index.

Don't smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.

If you smoke, it's time to quit. Even exposure to secondhand smoke poses a serious health hazard. Nonsmokers are up to 30 percent more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer from secondhand smoke exposure at home or work, experts say.

Heart Healthy in Your 30s

Juggling family and career leaves many adults with little time to worry about their hearts.

Cook with family.

Plant a vegetable or fruit garden in the yard, and invite your kids into the kitchen to help cook. It’s important to teach them where their food comes from at a young age.

Know your family history.

Look beyond your family tree to learn about heart health. Having a relative with heart disease increases your risk, and more so, if the relative is a parent or sibling. It is important to focus on risk factors you can control by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, not smoking and eating healthier. Also, keep your doctor informed about any heart problems you learn about in your family.

Heart Healthy in Your 40s

Healthy choices you make now can strengthen your heart for the long haul. Understand why you need to make a lifestyle change and have the confidence to make it.

Attain a healthy weight.

You may notice your metabolism slows down in your 40s. Avoid weight gain by following a heart-healthy diet. It is also crucial to get plenty of exercise. Find a group exercise class you can look forward to.

Check your blood sugar level.

This test serves as a baseline for future tests, which you should have every three years. Testing may be done earlier or more often if you are overweight, diabetic, or at risk for diabetes. High sugar levels slowly erode the ability of cells in your pancreas to make insulin. The organ overcompensates and insulin levels stay too high. Over time, the pancreas is permanently damaged. High levels of blood sugar can cause changes that lead to a hardening of the blood vessels, what doctors call atherosclerosis.

Heart Healthy in Your 50s

Unlike the emergence of wrinkles and gray hair, what you can’t see is the impact aging has on your heart.

Eat a healthy diet.

It’s easy to slip into some unhealthy eating habits, so refresh you’re eating habits by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes, and seeds.

Know the warning signs of a heart attack.

Educate yourself on the warning signs of a heart and stroke. Not everyone experiences sudden numbness with a stroke, or severe chest pain with a heart attack. Note: Heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men.

Heart Healthy at 60+

With age comes an increased risk for heart disease. About four out of five people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older. Your blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart-related numbers tend to rise. Watching your numbers closely and managing any health-related problems that arise – along with the requisite healthy eating and exercise – can help you live longer and better.

Know your body.

As you get older, your body needs fewer calories. Excess weight causes your heart to work harder and increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Exercising regularly and eating smaller portions of nutrient-rich foods may help you maintain a healthy weight.