Heart health and ageing: What to expect in your 60s and beyond

May 04, 2023
This Heart Week, take the time to check your heart health. Source: Getty

In Australia, heart disease is the leading cause of death, with an estimated 1.2 million Australians living with a heart condition, resulting in a loss of one life every 30 minutes.

Despite the scary statistics,  heart disease can largely be prevented by making simple lifestyle changes.

While factors such as age, gender, ethnic background and family history can’t be changed, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of heart disease and keep your heart healthy.

So, what are the steps you should take to practice good heart health?

Know your risk factors

The best place to start in figuring out your heart health is to test your blood pressure. Source: Getty

Educating yourself on the heart disease risk factors you can change, and adjusting your lifestyle to make those changes, is key to protecting yourself from heart disease.

If you have diabetes, it’s crucial to remain vigilant in managing your condition to prevent heart attacks and strokes, especially since diabetes puts you at an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Being smoke-free is one of the most important changes you can make to help your heart, as is managing your cholesterol levels. If you have high blood pressure, managing this condition is paramount.

High cholesterol and high blood pressure are often referred to as the “silent killers” as they typically don’t cause any noticeable symptoms until they’ve caused significant damage to the body.

Having a high cholesterol level is one of the biggest risks of suffering a heart attack or stroke, while high levels of blood pressure over a long period of time can increase the risk of heart disease.

Be sure to consult with a GP regarding the management of cholesterol and blood pressure, and remember, it’s equally important to follow up with regular check-ups and adhere to any medication schedules.

Know your blood pressure

High blood pressure is one of the most significant risk factors for heart disease, also known as one of the “silent killers”.

Unfortunately, many people with high blood pressure do not experience any noticeable symptoms, making it essential to have regular blood pressure checkups to detect and manage the condition.

The only way to determine if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked regularly, even if you feel well and healthy. This is especially important if you have a family history of high blood pressure or other risk factors for heart disease.

Thankfully, we live in a day and age where you can easily access blood pressure measuring devices at home, at your local pharmacy or during your next doctor’s appointment.

Know your heart’s age

Knowing your heart’s age is a great way to understand your risk of heart attacks or strokes, and can be calculated with an online calculator which uses established risk factors for heart disease such as age, sex, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

If your heart age is higher than your actual age, it may indicate a heightened risk of heart attack or stroke.

In such a case, it’s recommended that you speak with your GP about getting a Heart Health Check to determine the most appropriate course of action.

Book a Heart Health Check

A Heart Health Check is a comprehensive 20-minute check-up with your GP that can help assess your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke within the next five years.

During the check-up, your doctor will gather important information about your lifestyle, medical history, and family health history. They will also conduct tests to measure your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.

Using this information, your GP will estimate your risk of heart disease and discuss the steps you can take to lower your risk. This may include recommendations for lifestyle changes, medication, or other interventions to help manage your heart health.

By taking the time to undergo a Heart Health Check and implementing the recommended changes, you can help reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to heart health, and early detection and management of risk factors can make all the difference.

Does exercise play a role in a healthy heart?

The simple answer is yes.

Being inactive and overweight are major risk factors for heart disease, so exercise has a big role to play in keeping your heart healthy.

As we get older, it’s common to experience physical limitations that make it harder to exercise as much as we used to. However, it’s important to remember that even a little bit of exercise can go a long way in helping to keep our hearts healthy.

Try taking yourself on brisk 30-45 minute walks every other day (you can start by adding shorter 10-minute bursts three times a day), and practice muscle toning exercises and resistance training.

Best foods to eat for a healthy heart

These foods are great for maintaining good heart health. Source: Getty

As well as exercise, maintaining a healthy diet is essential for maintaining heart health.

Here are some foods that are particularly good for your heart:

Fruits and Vegetables: These are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre that can help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease. Aim for a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, such as berries, leafy greens, and citrus fruits.

Whole Grains: Whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat are excellent sources of fibre and can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Lean Protein: Choose lean protein sources such as chicken, fish, beans, and legumes, which are low in saturated fat and can help lower your cholesterol levels.

Seeds and nuts: Seeds and nuts like almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds are high in heart-healthy fats, fibre, and protein. They also contain antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease.

Healthy Fats: Choose healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and fatty fish such as salmon or tuna. These can help improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Warning signs of stroke and heart attack

Call 000 immediately if you notice any of these signs and symptoms. Source: Getty

Recognising the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke is critical to seeking immediate medical attention, which can help save your life.

The common warning signs of a heart attack are:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats

If you experience any of these symptoms, call emergency services right away.

Similarly, the warning signs of a stroke can include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services.

Remember, every second counts when it comes to seeking treatment for a heart attack or stroke.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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