As you get older, it’s especially important to be aware of your heart attack risk. Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women worldwide: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 647,000 individuals die from the condition in the United States alone each year—meaning heart disease accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths stateside. And unfortunately, while some things get better with age, your heart health is not typically one of them.
According to 2013 data from the American Heart Association, 6 percent of men and 5.5 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 59 have coronary heart disease (CHD). Among those 60 to 79 years old, those numbers at least double: 21.1 percent of men and 10.6 percent of women in that age bracket have CHD. And, as the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) notes, CHD is the leading cause of heart attacks.
If you want to avoid becoming a statistic, there’s still plenty of time to ditch the habits that increase your heart attack risk after 40. Make changes today, so that you can have many healthy years to look forward to! And if you’re looking to stay on top of your heart health, These Are the Heart Attack Warning Signs Hiding in Plain Sight.
1. Skipping breakfast
Starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast could ultimately save your life. A review of research published in the journal Circulation in 2013 found a significant link between eating breakfast and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. And for more ways to stave off CHD, here are 20 Heart Disease Risk Factors That May Surprise You.
2. Spending too much time alone
Having friends is not only important to your happiness, but the friendships you make may actually help your heart in the long run. According to a 2016 study published in the journal Heart, social isolation can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease. Those who reported poor social relationships had a 29 percent greater chance of having CHD than those with healthier ones.
3. Working nights
Want a healthier heart? Try switching from the night shift to a nine to five schedule, if possible. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2016 discovered a link between long-duration night shift work and an increased risk of CHD among women.
4. Sitting all-day
There’s no time like the present to spring for a treadmill desk if you’re eager to reduce your heart attack risk. A 2012 study published in the journal Diabetology found that a sedentary job increased an individual’s chance of experiencing a cardiovascular event by 147 percent.
5. Sleeping too much
While skimping on sleep is bad for your wellbeing, getting too much sleep can actually be worse for your heart health than not getting enough. A meta-analysis of research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2018 revealed that getting more than eight hours of sleep can significantly increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), with a moderate risk for those who got nine hours of sleep and nearly a 44 percent increase among those logging eleven hours a night.
6. Being too serious
It might not be the best medicine, but the benefits of laughter can’t be discounted. A pivotal 2009 study published in the journal Nature found that laughing expands the inner lining of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which improves your heart health and ultimately decreases your heart attack risk.
7. Not exercising at all
Skipping the gym one too many times could be a big problem for your heart down the road. “Physical inactivity is a risk factor for heart disease,” says Seema. She notes that exercise can help lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and even stress levels, which decreases your likelihood of a heart attack.
So, how much time should you be spending at the gym? According to the experts, 30 minutes of moderate activity a day— or 150 minutes a week— will reduce your heart disease risk.