There's not just one way to ensure heart health.
Instead, it takes a multifaceted approach that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet and other elements. But regardless of age, it is relatively easy to take steps that will contribute to heart - and overall - health.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's multidisciplinary experts would like to offer a few general tips that can help keep people "young at heart."
• Physical activity is especially important. Although many experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise a day, that doesn't mean immediately going from zero to 30 minutes. Tammy Meade, PT, DPT, CLT, physical therapist, recommends starting at a level of exercise that can be tolerated and increasing the amount gradually until it reaches the 30-minute mark. If a day of physical activity is missed, she says, just try again the next day, but definitely avoid going three days without exercise.
• Diet can also impact cardiac health. Debbie Hicks, MEd, RD, LDN, registered dietitian, advises eating a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole-grain items. Minimizing the intake of salt and alcohol, she adds, also can assist in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
• Managing stress is one way to lower the risk of heart problems, and having cholesterol and blood pressure checks on a regular basis is important, too. However, knowing one's family history can be vital. Cardiologist Renato Santos, M.D., recommends surveying immediate relatives to see if there's any history of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or stroke. If these problems run in the family, he advises, people should inform their physicians because risk factors for heart problems could be elevated.
• Being young is no guarantee of cardiac health; even children are susceptible to various heart ailments. To reduce the possibility of these problems arising, Pediatrician Joseph A. Skelton, M.D., encourages parents to keep their kids active. It's never too early to start practicing good habits by limiting "screen time" to two hours or less a day, while aiming for a total of one hour a day of physical activity. This activity does not have to be traditional exercise; playing games or sports or just being outside can be beneficial for young people.
Wake Forest Baptist's Heart Center