Heart health through the decades

Man walking with his arm around his father

Support for a healthy heart starts earlier than you may think. Compared to the decades of the 60s and 70s, trending obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol are rising. The weight problem alone contributes to heart disease sooner than it used to, increasing the general population's risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes at earlier and earlier ages. Heart health starts with you, and your health later depends on your actions now.

Start paying attention to your heart now

Coronary disease doesn't happen overnight; it accumulates over the decades. Choices as a young adult make a difference over a lifetime. If you stay on top of your health when you're younger, it will pay dividends when you're older. Prevention can pay off in significant ways when you're approaching your 50s and 60s.

"There is this spectrum of our timeline you can modify, and even if you have a family history of early disease, you can still protect your heart for decades," says Daniel Anderson, MD, Nebraska Medicine cardiologist and electrophysiologist. "You may even be able to avoid heart problems altogether if you do the right things along the way to protect yourself. So yes, go do your thing as a young person, but while you're at it, think about what your health may look like at your parent's age."

Think of your primary care doctor as your health coach

Regular doctor visits are essential in every decade. Your primary care doctor is your coach and the first line of defense. If problems arise, you may need other doctors on your team to help. Unless there are existing health issues, be sure to see your doctor regularly and more often with each decade.

  • In your 20s, switch from a pediatrician to an adult doctor to manage your health 
  • See a doctor regularly who is keeping up with the latest in medical advancements
  • Discuss your family history with your doctor
  • Keep up with regular appointments, screenings and vaccinations in every decade
  • Exercise regularly, avoid tobacco and practice a heart-healthy diet to maintain weight

Screenings are essential for heart health in every decade

If you have no medical issues, you should still see your doctor regularly. If problems arise, you may need to go more often than guidelines recommend. The main things for heart health? Screen for the big heart issues like blood pressure, weight management, diabetes screening and cholesterol levels. 

Watch for changes specifically in blood pressure and cholesterol over time, which significantly impacts your heart. Avoid delaying treatment, hoping it will just get better. "We tend to want to lose the weight before we treat the cholesterol or high blood pressure. I encourage patients to treat their cholesterol to where they're protected in a way that's best for them. Then when they're successful with intervention, we can take them off of the medication and continue with healthy lifestyle choices," says Dr. Anderson.

It's never too late to make positive changes

Studies have shown patients can show significant improvement with treatment even later in life. Preventing a problem tomorrow can have a positive effect on your quality of life. "At any age, it's worth seeing someone about a problem that is bothersome," advises Dr. Anderson. "It may be treatable, or at least we can improve symptoms and take the edge off. If you don't feel normal compared to your peers, it's a good idea to see your doctor about your symptoms." Whether change involves healthier habits or a specific course of treatment, our bodies have amazing ways of responding to positive changes. It's never too late.

Bottom line? Own your heart health by being proactive in every season of life. Ask questions and stay informed.

Ready to begin? Make an appointment today at 800.922.0000.