Image by Jack Gray
Once you hit your 40s, it becomes especially important to think about your heart health. As a busy mom, wife, and business owner, I spend a lot of time taking care of everyone else that I sometimes neglect my own health care. My yearly physical gets postponed (or never scheduled), exercise gets put off, sleep seems more and more elusive, and I lack the energy to do the things I love. I know I’m not alone. I hear the same complaints from my private clients.
Unfortunately, the increase in stress, decreased physical activity, and hormonal changes that creep up during this time can affect the health of your heart. Making a few simple changes to your lifestyle and habits can protect your heart now––and as you age. To get back in balance, try implementing these tips.
1. Make Time for You
I know what you’re thinking, who has the time? Well, don’t panic. All I’m asking for is 15 to 20 minutes per day. And this doesn’t include when you should be sleeping because that only makes matters worse (see number three below). What I’m talking about is finding an activity during the day that is purely selfish and solely about you and your own self-care. It can be a yoga class, sneaking in a few chapters of a delicious new novel, a daily walk, or a deep breathing meditation. The idea is to carve out 15-20 minutes every single day just for you. It’s a gift to yourself that keeps on giving, I promise.
2. Hit the Gym
It may seem difficult to make time for exercise, but it’s critical to your heart health. Starting at age 40, we begin to lose muscle mass (about 1% per year). This sad fact, along with the hormonal changes that begin to occur, contributes to the dreaded “middle age spread” we see in our early 50s. Maintaining as much muscle as possible headed into middle age can help to maintain a healthy weight, keep blood pressure low, and strengthen your heart.
My trick for incorporating exercise is to add it to my schedule, just like any other appointment. This way I can’t use the “no time” excuse, because I’ve already made the time in my calendar. You can also create a challenge or goal around your exercise. This year I’m running in two races, which helps keep me motivated when I just don’t feel like getting out there.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Do not underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Your quality and quantity of sleep has a direct impact on your health and your heart. According to the National Sleep Foundation, not getting enough sleep puts you at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, regardless of age, weight, smoking, and exercise habits. One study examined the sleep habits of 3,000 adults over the age of 45, and found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Turn off the electronics, and get to bed, girl!
4. Get a Baseline
Although you may not have any problems now, it’s important to get baseline data on important heart disease risk factors. Monitoring your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar level by getting these numbers checked regularly is an important part of health care. Even a yearly weight check is important. Many of my clients don’t think they’ve gained weight until they see it on the doctor’s scale. A five pound weight gain each year will start to add up and may get harder and harder to lose as you age. Where you’re putting on extra weight is important, too. Fat accumulating around the belly can affect your heart health. A woman’s waist circumference should never go above 35 inches.
5. Supplement Smarts
Supplements can be healing and supportive and are a great addition to a diet rich in whole foods and antioxidants. I recommend the following supplements for optimal heart health:
Omega-3 fatty acids are heart health superstars! They help to lower triglycerides, support blood circulation, and improve blood pressure. If you don’t get enough fish in your diet, taking 1-2 grams of omega 3 per day is a great way to protect your heart.
Your gut health is directly related to your overall health. The amount and types of “good” bacteria present in your gut affects the strength of your immune system and your digestive wellness. Incorporating fermented foods daily and taking a probiotic will help keep the bad bacteria at bay and contributes to optimal health and wellbeing.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Considered a “universal antioxidant,” ALA has the ability to neutralize free radicals, balance blood sugar levels, and preserve important antioxidants like vitamins C and E. Take 30-100 mg/day.
Calcium with Vitamin D
Bone density and strength begins to decline in your 40s and beyond, which increases your risk for osteoporosis. After menopause, women are at even higher risk. Calcium is also important for a healthy heart. Evidence suggests that calcium can also promote better sleep and normalize blood pressure. Adults need 1,000 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D per day. If you’re not getting what you need from your diet, Cal-EZ can help!