Salt Lake City, Utah (Good Things Utah) — Many women think they don’t need to worry about their heart health until later in life. However, there are vital steps you can take in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, to reduce your risk of heart disease.

You’re never too you too start paying attention to your heart health. According to a 2020 US study, heart attacks are becoming more common in young women.

Preventing heart disease means making smart choices now that will pay off the rest of your life, according to heart experts at the Intermountain Health Heart & Vascular Program.

Lack of exercise, a poor diet and other unhealthy habits can take their toll over the years. Anyone at any age can benefit from simple steps to keep their heart healthy during each decade of life.

“For women without a strong family history of heart disease, your 20s are a good time to start talking to your health care provider about screening earlier for heart disease and how to keep your heart healthy,” said Sami Clarkson, NP, a nurse practitioner at Intermountain Health’s McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden. “It’s also a good time to start making healthy lifestyle choices that can affect you later.”

Here are tips to consider:

All Age Groups

No matter what your age, everyone can benefit from a healthy diet and adequate physical activity.
Choose a Healthy Eating Plan – The food you eat can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat.

• Be Physically Active – You can slowly work up to at least 2½ hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., jogging, running) or a combination of both every week.

• Learn Warning Signs of a Heart Attack or Stroke – It’s never too early or too late to learn the warning signs of a heart attack. Not everyone experiences sudden numbness with a stroke or severe chest pain with a heart attack. And heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men. 

“Getting smart about your heart early on puts you far ahead of the curve. The things you do — and don’t— can reduce your risk of heart disease later in life,” said Clarkson.

Tips for Your 20s

Find a Healthcare Provider and Have Regular Wellness Exams – Healthy people need regular wellness exams. Establishing a relationship with a healthcare provider means you can start heart-health screenings now. Talk to your provider about your diet, lifestyle and checking your blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, and blood sugar. You may also need your blood sugar checked if you are pregnant, overweight or have diabetes. Knowing where your numbers stand early makes it easier to spot a possible change in the future.

• Be physically active. – It’s a lot easier to be active and stay active if you start at a young age. If you’re accustomed to physical activity, you’ll sustain it. Keep your workout routine interesting by mixing it up and finding new motivators.

• Don’t Smoke and Avoid Secondhand Smoke – If you picked up smoking as a teen, 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, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

Tips for Your 30s

Juggling family and career leaves many adults with little time to worry about their hearts. Here are some ways to balance all three:

• Make Heart-Healthy Living a Family Focus – Create and sustain heart-healthy habits in your family and you’ll reap the benefits, too. Spend less time on the couch and more time on the move.

Know Your Family History – Shake down your family history 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.

• Reduce Your Stress – Long-term stress causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage the artery walls. Learning stress management techniques not only benefits your body, but also your quality of life. Try deep breathing exercises and find time each day to do something you enjoy.

Tips for Your 40s

If heart health hasn’t been a priority, don’t worry. 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. Then, tackle them one at a time

• Maintain a Healthy Weight – You may notice your metabolism slowing down in your 40s. But you can avoid weight gain by following a heart-healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. The trick is to find a workout routine you enjoy. If you need motivation, find a workout buddy.

• Have Your Blood Sugar Level Checked – In addition to blood pressure checks and other heart-health screenings, you should have a fasting blood glucose test by the time you’re 45. This first 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 becoming diabetic.

• Don’t Brush Off Snoring – Listen to your sleeping partner’s complaints about your snoring. One in five adults has at least mild sleep apnea, a condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. If not properly treated, sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Lower your risk by following your prescribed treatment plan, including medications and lifestyle and diet changes.

For more information about heart health go to the Intermountain Health website.

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