Aging: What to Expect (Your Heart)

You know that aging will likely cause wrinkles and gray hair. But do you know how aging will affect other things? This is the first in a series of topics to find out what changes to expect as you continue aging — and how to promote good health at any age.

The most common change is to your cardiovascular system. Blood vessels and arteries are stiffening, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood through them. The heart muscles enlarge to adjust to the increased workload. Your heart rate at rest will stay about the same, but it will not increase during activities as much as it used to. These changes increase the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and other cardiovascular problems.

What you can do to promote heart health:

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Try walking, swimming or other activities you enjoy. Regular moderate physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your heart disease risk.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and salt.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking contributes to the hardening of your arteries and increases your blood pressure and heart rate. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit.
  • Manage stress. Stress can take a toll on your heart. Take steps to reduce stress, such as meditation, exercise or talk therapy.
  • Get enough sleep. Quality sleep plays an important role in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Aim for seven to nine hours a night.

May we, like our patron, St. Brendan, trust joyfully in the guidance of our God and in the goodness of our fellow travelers.

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