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The Secret to a Healthy Heart

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healthy-heart-through-lifestyle-changes Hemera/Thinkstock

I absolutely love the way the media portrays "older" women these days. More and more you see movies with great roles for actresses who’ve long since left their 20s smoking behind in the dust.

Morning talk shows and evening news feature vibrant, intelligent -- and yes, mature -- women in prominent, leading roles. From Cougar Town to glamour grandmothers, or glamgrams, to magazines that proudly proclaim that 50-is-the-new-30, it’s a good time to be a woman who is 50-something.

Unfortunately, no one told cardiovascular disease that 50 is supposed to be the new 30 and heart disease continues to be a source of health concern for aging women, particularly after menopause.

As we enter into our second-generation 30-something era of life, how do we keep heart disease at bay and enjoy the heart health that we had in our 30s? The answer lies in the lifestyle choices we make during our 20s and 30s.

According to the results of a new study conducted by Northwestern Medicine, the lifestyle choices that you make as a young adult have a direct correlation on your risk of heart disease as you age. For those at risk for heart disease, lifestyle changes have been shown to reduce and even prevent heart disease.

Recommended lifestyle changes include following a healthy heart-friendly diet, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping body-mass-index or BMI within healthy levels, and quitting smoking. Other recommended lifestyle changes are managing stress levels, limiting alcohol intake, controlling high blood pressure, lowering high blood cholesterol levels, controlling diabetes, and practicing good hygiene.

While multiple lifestyle factors were examined, the Northwestern study examined the effects of consistently following five selected heart-healthy lifestyle choices during the 20s and 30s on the development of heart disease later in life.

The lifestyle changes tracked were a healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake, no smoking, a healthy BMI, and regular physical activity.

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Hi Donna.. I'm 50 something as well and hear you on everything that you're doing. You sound a lot like me in that I like the swimming too because it's so easy on your joints. If you ever want to mix your exercise routine up, you might try NIA. NIA is a non-impact aerobic exercise based on a number of dance forms and is much easier on the joints than some of the other high intensity aerobic workouts.   You mentioned high blood pressure. Do you also have high cholesterol?  If so, have your doctor check your Vitamin D level as a Vit D deficiency is linked to high cholesterol.  I have MS which sucks the Vit D right out of my body and when my Vit D levels are low, my cholesterol goes up.  When Vit D is normal, my cholesterol goes down. 

Good luck!  Mary

March 26, 2012 - 7:17pm

Awesome reality check Mary! I'm 50 something and recently found out I have high blood pressure. Of course, I am taking the necessary precautions and mostly that includes a life change.
I go to the gym (oh boy I need to be pulled out for that one) but make it a point to do so every other day. I am fully enjoy water exercises because there is no gravity. I swim for my cardio and do weights in the pool. I'm having a blast now that I'm used to it.
I also eat oatmeal every day (yuck...not a fan) but I know it makes a difference in this situation, especially with cholesterol being high.
I take my fish oil, CoQ10, etc.
Although I feel young, I have to listen to my body because the truth is I have lived over a half century and the reality is I need to tweak my diet and exercise.
I thank you for this awesome post. It will enlighten many people.
Donna Merrill

March 14, 2012 - 10:24am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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