Heart Health Starts At Every Age

It's never too early to worry about heart health

You can prevent heart disease. That's true for women and men too.  And it's never too soon to start, even if you can't imagine that you might have a problem.

"I was 25," said Anacani Ramirez. "I had just finished running the Marine Corp Marathon and I was healthy."

The D.C. nurse said she was in some of the best shape of her life. But when her co-worker happened to check her blood pressure, she found it to be surprisingly high.

Cardiologist Dr. Ramin Oskoui said Ramirez is one of the lucky ones because she caught her high blood pressure early. Too many people aren't keeping track of their heart health and that's causing big problems later in life.

"The reality is, what you're cholesterol is and what your blood pressure is, really makes a difference in your 20s based on what's going to happen to you when you're 60," Oskoui said.

Oskoui said people in their 20s need to have their cholesterol and blood pressure tested, because at such a young age most problems can be fixed simply with diet and exercise.

It's also important for young women to work closely with their ObGyn, since that's the only doctor many women see regularly at this age.  But when you reach your 30s, your body starts to change.

"We all know metabolism changes," Oskoui said. "You can go out and have a drink or two and guess what? It's harder to do that and go to work the next day. You're gaining weight, not exercising as much, family responsibilities have kicked in or your ability to rationalize bad behavior has improved."

Oskoui said this is the time to make sure you're establishing a regular work out program and healthy diet because the older and less active you get, the bigger an impact it can have on your cholesterol and blood pressure.

But once you hit 40, your metabolism slows down even more. Bad habits, like smoking, can begin to take a greater toll. Many people in their 40s are under more stress and aren't getting enough rest, which can make things even worse.

"If you can get 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night, it's tremendously helpful for your metabolism and your immune system and also heart stress as well," he said.

As you enter the 50s, you should maintain a healthy lifestyle. Oskoui said now is the time to see your doctor regularly to make sure you're getting treatment for any health problems you've developed along the way.

"We estimate that by the time you are in your late 50s to early 60s, 30 to 40 percent of all people are going to need blood pressure medication to treat their numbers," he said. "You may end up being one of them. Find out."

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