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*This article originally appeared in WakeMed’s Heart to Heart Magazine.
Do you want to really enjoy your golden years? Living longer can provide an opportunity to enjoy retirement, travel, spend time with grandchildren or simply take time to slow down while feeling your best. Most of us know adopting a heart healthy lifestyle can improve our risk for heart disease, stroke and other health problems, but recent research indicates it can help us live longer, too.
According to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, adopting five basic lifestyle habits can help us live longer – up to 14 years for women and 12 years for men.
While much of the advice that comes from this study aligns with a heart healthy lifestyle, this is the first study to research its impact on life expectancy.
“This is the first study I’ve seen to prove that the habits we’ve been telling our patients to adopt for years to improve their heart health can actually prolong their lives, too,” explains Dr. Matthew White, WakeMed Heart & Vascular Physicians. “While lifestyle changes are never easy to make, I hope this research will help us inspire our patients who want to focus on developing healthy habits.”
Are you already imagining what you could do with an extra 12-14 years of feeling great? If so, here are the five strategies proven to help you prolong your life. So, what are you waiting for? Dust off those bucket lists and get started today. If you need help, the experts at WakeMed Heart & Vascular are here to guide you every step of the way.
WakeMed Dietitian Parul Kharod recommends her patients limit sodium, saturated fats, and packaged processed foods. She encourages them to eat a balanced, colorful diet that includes a variety of anti-oxidant rich vegetables and fruits, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, fiber and minerals from whole grains, and moderate amounts of protein from a variety of plant and animal sources. She emphasizes the importance of cutting out sugary beverages and energy drinks and advises everyone to drink adequate amounts of water.
Getting the right amount and the right type of exercise can feel overwhelming – especially for those who haven’t been very active for much of their lives. Aligned with American Heart Association guidelines, WakeMed Exercise Specialist Beth Drossman encourages between 75 and 150 minutes of activity per week, depending on the intensity of the workout.
“Balancing a variety of strength and aerobic exercise activities can keep things interesting. Whether it’s taking a brisk walk, yoga or water aerobics, finding something you really enjoy is the key to maintaining an exercise program.”
For those who drink alcohol, the American Heart Association recommends to do so in moderation – which is defined as an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Never smoking was identified as a top strategy in the Circulation study, but quitting smoking can also reduce your risk of many heart- and lung-related health problems. If you are a smoker, your cardiologist can help you develop a plan to quit.
Keeping your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 is the sweet spot indicated in the Circulation study. Your primary care physician or cardiologist can help you develop a plan to achieve
a healthy BMI, but monitoring your daily calorie intake and keeping tabs on your weight with regular weigh-ins is a great place to start.
Coleen Hanson Smith is a freelance healthcare writer with 20 years of editorial, PR and marketing experience. She’s passionate about doing work that matters. As such, Coleen’s specialty areas are aligned with her personal passions which include: healthcare/hospital/physician practice/health & wellness; technology/B2B; parenting; and philanthropy/non-profit.
Heart to Heart Magazine is published quarterly for patients, former patients and physicians associated with the WakeMed Heart Center. Discover heart-healthy recipes, the scoop on the latest trends in nutrition, and the extraordinary men and women who work within the Heart Center’s walls.
Subscribe to Heart to Heart Magazine today.
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