January 24, 2019
It’s Never Too Late to Take Care of Your Heart
Aging causes changes in your heart and blood vessels. As you age, your heart doesn’t beat as fast during physical activity. Your large arteries may get stiffer or harden. This can cause high blood pressure. Fatty deposits can also build up on the walls of your arteries over time.
Even though people age 65 and older are more likely to suffer a heart attack or develop heart disease, this is not necessarily a normal part of aging. In fact, there are things you can do to delay, lower, or possibly avoid the risk of developing heart disease all together. Let’s learn about some of the ways you develop heart disease, and what you can do about it.
The plaque that builds up in your arteries is similar to the plaque that builds up on your teeth. Imagine this layer growing and hardening until blood can’t pass through your arteries to your heart. Without this oxygen rich blood, your heart weakens and gets damaged over time. This can lead to heart failure.
Even if you consider yourself healthy, you need to have your blood pressure checked regularly as you age. This is because age related changes in your arteries can lead to high blood pressure. You may feel fine but, if not treated, high blood pressure could lead to a stroke or problems with your heart, eyes, brain, and kidneys.
There some age-related changes that are outside of your control. Examples of these changes may include:
- Changes in the electrical system that can lead to irregular heartbeats.
- Valves—the one-way, door-like parts that open and close to control blood flow between the chambers of your heart—may become thicker and stiffer.
- The chambers of your heart may increase in size.
- With increasing age, people become more sensitive to salt, which may cause an increase in blood pressure.
So what can you do to prevent plaque buildup, control your blood pressure, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease?
- Eat less salt.
- Choose foods that are low in trans and saturated fats. These fats are more likely to build up in your arteries. Foods like red meat and butter contain a lot of these fats, so limit your intake.
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber, like those made from whole grains. Foods like this not only add less plaque, but they can also fight against the plaque that has already built up.
- Exercise regularly. As you exercise, your heart beats blood through your arteries faster and stronger, which can prevent plaque from building up and break away plaque that’s already there.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol. Men shouldn’t drink more than 2 drinks a day, and women should only drink one or less a day.
- Stop smoking. There’s no getting around the fact that smoking does terrible damage to your heart. The best option to protect your heart is to quit smoking completely.
- Keep a healthy weight. Track your calorie intake and exercise to make sure you are maintaining a balanced lifestyle.
- If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, work with your doctor to take the right medications and monitor your numbers. Keeping these conditions under control will help you in your fight against heart disease.
- Make sleep and rest a priority. Getting enough quality sleep every night helps your heart heal.
Your doctor will be able to tell you more ways that you can use your individual situation to take care of your heart health. Just remember that it’s never too late to start. Talk to you doctor at your next check up to see what you can do to help in your fight against heart disease.
If you do not have a doctor and would like help finding one, UT Medical Center’s Healthcare Coordination can help. They will talk to you about what insurance you have, what type of doctor you need, and what days are most convenient for you. Call them today at 865-305-6970 to make an appointment.
For more information about heart disease or any other health topic, contact the Health Information Center. The Health Information Center is a library staffed by medical librarians and certified health information specialists. If you let us know your health information needs, we will do research for you and mail or email the results to you for free. You can call us at 865-305-9525. We also have a large collection of health books covering a variety of topics, including the following:
Becoming a library member is free and only requires a picture ID.
The Health Information Center in located on the first floor the hospital. We have computers, printers, and a quiet place to take a break. We are open the following times:
Mon.-Thurs., 8:30 am-9 pm
Fri., 8:30 am-5 pm
Sat., 9 am-5 pm
Sun., 1 pm-9 pm