While heart disease is more common as we age, we are seeing heart disease showing up earlier in life. Unfortunately, heart disease – and the conditions that lead to heart disease – are occurring in younger adults. Increased rates of obesity and high blood pressure among younger people (ages 35-64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease: High blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Our risks for heart disease matter because heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women.

The American Heart Association recommends 5 things you can do to reduce your risk for heart disease and help prevent heart attack and stroke.

1.  Know your risk. If you’re between 40 and 75 years old and have never had a heart attack or stroke, use the American Heart Association’s Check. Change. Control. Calculator to estimate your risk of having a heart event in the next 10 years. If you don’t know your blood pressure numbers or cholesterol levels, it may be time to make an appointment with your primary care provider. Most adults should have their blood cholesterol checked every 4-6 years. Knowing your risk can help you and your providers take steps toward prevention

2.  Eat a healthy diet. Center your eating around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins and fish. Try to limit refined carbohydrates like sweets, breakfast cereal and white bread. Watch out for processed meats like pepperoni, bacon and hot dogs as well as sweet drinks like sodas and some sports drinks. Read labels on packaged foods to reduce sodium, added sugars, saturated fats and avoid trans fat. Trans fat is found in fried foods, commercial baked goods, processed foods and margarine. Trans fat can be spotted as “partially hydrogenated oils” on ingredient lists.

3.  Be physically active. Moving is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Shoot for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Walking is one of the simplest ways to be active. The St. Peter Community Center is a great place to walk indoors in the winter months. The track is open and free during building hours. In Mankato, you can head to Madison East Center and do “The Thrive Walk.” 

4.  Watch your weight. Do your best to stay at a healthy weight for you. Being overweight or obese puts people at a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and stroke. Talk with your primary care provider if you need help finding a weight loss plan.

5. Live tobacco-free. Quit Partner is Minnesota’s free way to quit nicotine, including smoking, vaping and chewing. Quit Partner offers free one-on-one coaching and other helpful tools such as free lozenges, gum and patches. Coaching can be done via text, phone or email. Visit www.quitpartnermn.com. Or call 1-800-Quit-Now. If you don’t smoke, vape or chew, don’t start. Try to avoid secondhand smoke too.

Source: American Heart Association

For more information, tips, recipes and ways to live a heart healthy lifestyle, visit the American Heart Association website.

Give your heart some love by making small daily choices toward a healthy lifestyle.