You’ve heard of teenage, middle age and old age but now there’s a new “age” in town. Heart age. Sometimes it feels like you need a spreadsheet just to keep track of all the things you’re supposed to do to keep your body healthy. And then the experts go and add another one.
So what exactly is heart age? It’s the age assigned to your heart based on your lifestyle and risk factors. Think of it this way — if you’re 65 and your heart age calculates out to 65 or less, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. If it’s older, well, you may have some work to do. And if you’re asking who really cares, well, the answer is you should – because a heart that’s older than you are, could mean you have fewer golden years left ahead of you.
Now that the term – and corresponding concern—has come to light, there are several Heart Age Calculators online that will help you find out your number. You can leave a question blank if you don’t know an answer, but the more you know and more honest you are, the more accurate your heart age estimate will be. And what’s the point of cheating? It’s not like when your driver’s license says you weigh 120 when it’s clear that you really weight 160. Heart age is something that does matter – because it gives you an idea of your risk for heart disease. So if you cheat, the person you’ll be hurting is you.
In case you want to think about the answers or even gather the information from your own medical chart or from a relative who may know your family’s history better than you do, here’s a look at the questions:
- How old are you?
- Are you male or female?
- What is your ethnic group?
- Have you ever smoked?
- Do you have any of these conditions –
- Past heart attack
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic kidney disease
- Arterial fibrillation
- What is your height?
- What is your weight?
- Have either of your parents had heart problems such as heart attack, stroke, angina or heart surgery?
- Did your mother have heart issues? At what age?
- Did your father have heart issues? At what age?
- Do you know your cholesterol level?
- Have you ever been told that you have high cholesterol?
- Do you know your blood pressure?
- What is your systolic blood pressure? (This is the first or “top” number.)
The calculator then comes up with your estimated heart age. Keep in mind that if you didn’t know the answers to any of these questions, the calculator gives you the benefit of the doubt, so if you later find out your exact cholesterol numbers or that your mom did have a heart procedure that you forgot about, take the test again to get a more accurate result. And remember — there are other factors that may affect your heart health as well.
And like with many health concerns, a family history of heart problems doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t mean you’re doomed to die young. It doesn’t even mean that you have or will have any heart problems at all.
We do know that Heart Age plays a large factor toward your overall health. But don’t worry – you can still lower your Heart Age by adopting or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You can’t change family history, but you change how you treat your body. Here’s how.
Work to improve any known problem areas such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Discuss these issues with your doctor. Depending on the actual numbers and how long you’ve had these issues, he or she might want to start out with lifestyle changes. For instance, a low-sodium diet can help reduce blood pressure and exercise and eating low fat foods can help with cholesterol.
If diet and exercise don’t result in any significant changes, your physician may recommend taking a prescription medication to treat the condition. Many people don’t like the idea of taking meds and that’s understandable – especially if you’ve never taken much or any medication before. But think of it like this – would you prefer to live a short life drug-free and pass away from a heart attack or stroke before you have a chance to enjoy your golden years? Or would you rather take a prescription to lower those risks – and live a long and healthy life? I thought so! Of course, if you find that you are having any side effects from the drugs, tell your doctor right away. He or she can prescribe something else or help you treat the problem another way.
And not every factor involves medication. In fact, several can be corrected by making – and sticking with — a major lifestyle change. One obvious one is smoking. The solution? Kick the habit. For good. I understand — it’s easier said than done, right? But consider this – those who smoke have are at least twice and up to four times times as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke as those that don’t smoke.
And then there’s your weight. We all know that putting on weight is way easier than losing it, but obesity is a definite factor toward getting heart disease. Time to start eating healthier. Add more fruits, vegetables and fiber to your diet. Eat more chicken and fish and less red meat. Cut back on sugar. And if you have more than a few pounds to lose, ask your doctor for advice or try one of the successful diet plans out there. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the Mediterranean Diet or South Beach Diet are all tried and true. The important thing is to find the one that will work best for you. And while you’re at it – find a friend who’s willing to do it with you. The buddy system will keep you honest and help you stay motivated.
The same is true of exercise. It’s not so much what you do as it is sticking with it that counts. Join a gym, take a walk – and find a friend to keep you company.
So check your Heart Age now so you can assess the changes that need to be made – before it’s too late!
And another thing to do before it’s too late is consider making a move to senior living! Discovery Village Senior Living along Florida’s gulf coast is one example of senior living at it’s finest. Stop by today and see for yourself. They offer activities; fine dining, exercise and full-time health and wellness professionals. Besides — you’re sure to find some new friends who’ll celebrate these golden years right along with you!
Discovery Village At Naples offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 239.309.7728.