The health of your heart is vitally important to your overall health. If you develop heart disease, it can cause high blood pressure (hypertension) and increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack. Heart disease can prevent you from completing activities you enjoy and rob you of many years of life. Here’s how to care for your heart throughout your lifespan, courtesy of PrimeCare Urgent Care.
How Does the Heart Work?
The heart is a muscle with four chambers. It has one task: pump blood throughout the body. Blood returns from the body to the first chamber, the right atrium. Each time the heart beats, it squeezes blood from the right atrium to the right ventricle and then into the lungs, where the blood is saturated with oxygen. Next, the blood returns to the left atrium and is then pumped into the blood vessels. At an average rate of 80 beats per minute, this process occurs more than 115,000 times a day.
Age-Related Changes in the Heart
As you grow older, your heart may not beat as fast and may become less strong. Fatty deposits can build up in the arteries, which impedes blood flow. A clot may form in an artery that supplies blood to the heart, resulting in a heart attack or myocardial infarction. Arteries can become less flexible, a condition known as arteriosclerosis, which leads to hypertension. The heart may fill more slowly and the heart wall becomes thicker. Some people develop abnormal electrical rhythms. The heart valves may also become stiff.
Signs of Heart Disease
While many of the age-related changes above are normal to some degree, significant changes can progress to the point of actual heart disease. In many cases, these changes happen gradually over many years. By the time they cause clear-cut symptoms, the condition is often well-advanced. The classic heart attack symptoms are crushing chest pain radiating to the jaw or left arm, with sweating, nausea and difficulty breathing. In women, symptoms may be more subtle, presenting as dizziness, fatigue or a feeling like heartburn.
Take Care of Your Heart
You should start caring for your heart in your 20s and 30s, and learn about your family health history as heart disease has a genetic component. Establish a relationship with a health care provider. Even when healthy, it’s important to have a check-up once a year. Lifestyle strategies can help keep your heart healthy. These include maintaining a normal weight, regular exercise (a 30-minute walk daily is all you need), stress management and a healthy diet. Make sure to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Monitor your blood pressure; hypertension can sneak up on you!
While no one can prevent age-related changes, the strategies mentioned above will give you the best chance of keeping your body and your heart in good shape. If you have health concerns, don’t hesitate to seek care – contact us or just walk in. Should you develop symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately!