Your Health Ben Brown | 7 years ago

It’s Never Too Late: Tips to Reverse Your Risk for Heart Failure

Haven’t always treated your body like a temple? Don’t fear: It’s never too late to shed those bad habits and reverse your risk for heart health problems in your later years.

“As we age, it becomes harder to make changes,” says Shelly Smith, RN BSN, nurse manager with Carolina’s HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute. “Many people believe that it’s too late to change and that the damage done can't be reversed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our patients who complete cardiac rehab make lifestyle changes with diet, exercise and stress management. They see positive changes in their blood pressure, cholesterol numbers and weight. They feel better and have increased energy.” Here are some tips on getting started:

Don’t Make Resolutions – Set Goals

Are those New Year’s resolutions already history? You’re not alone: studies show that more than 90 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail within the first month. “When people set resolutions, they’re often lofty aspirations with no plans for how to actually achieve them,” says Smith. “The better approach is to set goals for the year. Think of the small steps you can take that will get you there and focus on those. Don’t tie your goals to any specific date, and reward yourself when you achieve each small step.”

Start Exercising – At Any Age

“People who start exercise even late in life can reap the benefits,” says Smith. Frequent exercise can help reduce the risk of heart disease and many other conditions. If you haven’t exercised in a while, first get a check-up from your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to begin an exercise program. Then, start slowly: take the stairs, walk around the block – try to engage in very mild exercise a few times a day, for a few weeks.

Quit Smoking

No matter how long you’ve smoked, quitting at any age is beneficial to your health. According to the American Cancer Society, even after age 80, people can live healthier if they give up cigarettes. The benefits to quitting are almost immediate:
  • Your breathing will improve and your lungs, heart and circulatory system will begin to function better.
  • Your chance of having a heart attack, having a stroke or getting cancer will drop.
  • You are likely to add years to your life.
  • You’ll save money!
Even if you’re tried a few times before, it’s never too late to try again and quit smoking for good.

Lose Weight

“Weight loss at any age yields heart benefits and helps you live longer,” says Smith. “Those extra pounds put you at increased risk of dying from heart disease and cancer, so no matter your age, shedding that extra weight is a must for a healthy lifestyle.” Smith notes that the most effective weight-loss plans include a combination of exercise and healthy diet.

Eat Right

If you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease or have high blood pressure, studies show that a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish can still lower your risk of dying from a cardiac event.

Get Your Annual Physical

An annual physical can catch health problems as they arise. The older you get, the more important these exams become to screen for medical issues, assess risks and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

The Sooner You Start, the Better

“Abandoning an unhealthy way of life in middle age can control – and even reverse – the progression of coronary artery disease,” says Smith. “It’s certainly never too late, but the sooner you pick up healthy habits and lose the bad ones, the more benefits you’ll reap for your heart and overall health.” A healthy heart lets you stay focused on doing what you love.  Learn how Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute can help you keep your heart healthy.