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Keeping your heart healthy as you age

Walking trails are just one feature Cornelius Woods offers

Many people believe that a decline in heart health is a natural consequence of aging. However, with a little tender loving care, we increase the odds that our hearts can continue functioning properly throughout our lives. What are some of the most important steps you can take to help protect your cardiac wellness?

Work in plenty of healthy movement

Medical experts recommend we get about half an hour of exercise most days of the week. Regular exercise can lower your risk of developing heart disease, and it can help reduce the risk of developing other medical conditions that endanger the heart, including diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Brisk walking for about 30 minutes most days serves as a great way to meet your exercise minimum. In addition, experts recommend you include strength training exercises at least a couple of times each week.

Check in with your doctor regularly

Regular screenings are among the best tools available for identifying elevated risk of strokes and heart attack, experts say. Work with your doctor to determine the types of screenings you should have, as well as the right frequency. Your doctor may recommend testing cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and other metrics on a regular basis.

Get sufficient rest

Research has found lower levels of a common heart disease marker — calcium in the arteries — among people who sleep seven hours each night. But the quality of sleep was just as important as the quantity, with subjects who described better-quality rest showing better artery health than individuals who didn’t sleep as well.

If you have trouble sleeping, consider implementing some good sleep hygiene habits, such as going to bed at the same time each night, making sure your bedroom is sufficiently cool and dark, and avoiding caffeine too close to bedtime. Your doctor also may have suggestions for improving your sleep quality and quantity.

Eat delicious, balanced meals

Experts say that eating well can lower your risk of developing heart disease. What is a heart-healthy diet? It includes plenty of fresh produce — colorful fruits and vegetables — along with whole grains, lean meats, and vegetarian protein sources such as beans, nuts, and low-fat dairy products.

In addition, a healthy diet pertains as much to what you don’t eat as what you do eat. Try to avoid too much sugar and salt, and limit trans fats and saturated fats, experts advise.