A healthy heart and a healthy life go hand in hand. Proper management of cardiac health can help fight aging and improve longevity

The most widely known fact about a heart is its size, generally as big as a person’s clenched fist. It lies in the front and middle of your chest, behind and slightly to the left of your breastbone. Your heart fuels your body through blistering treadmill sprints, flutters with a boost of adrenaline and paces you through a crazy work day; all while supplying your brain, limbs and organs with oxygen and nutrient-rich blood. At rest, your heart beats approximately 60 to 100 times each minute while a child’s heart rate is higher than an adult’s. During an average lifetime a person’s heart will beat about 3 billion times.Every heartbeat results in blood moving forward through your arteries. You can feel this movement as a “pulse” by placing two fingers over the artery of your wrist, but can you imagine the amount of blood moved throughout your body every single day? Let’s calculate it with simple math. Every heartbeat moves about 70 mL of blood and an average person’s heart beats about 104,000 times in day, meaning a total of about 7.3 tons of blood move through the body every single day! Taking this into account, heart disease is nothing to ignore. It can strike both the old and young and is the leading cause of death among men and women in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone in the U.S. has a coronary event every 25 seconds.As a heart surgeon, I know that those at risk can take control of their health and turn the current for a better and longer life. It is never too late to educate yourself on the potential risk factors you may have for heart disease.

Women and heart disease

Although the average age for women to experience a heart attack is in their early 70s, don’t be fooled into thinking that heart disease will only strike when you get older. More women in their early 20s die of heart disease than of breast cancer. Additionally, the frequency of heart attack among younger women, ages 35 to 54, has been on the rise over the last two decades.

However, according to a poll conducted by Women’s Health and the American Heart Association (AHA), 40 percent of women rarely give their heart a second thought. This lack of awareness is odd considering 1 in 4 females will die of heart disease that may start as a silent illness as early as their teenage years. In other words, the lifetime risk for heart disease is nearly triple the lifetime risk for breast cancer in these individuals.

Men and heart disease

The average age that men experience a heart attack is 65, but like women, heart disease can strike at any age and must be taken seriously at all ages. In the United States 1 in 4 deaths among men in 2009 were due to heart disease, totaling 307,225 deaths, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Additionally, the majority of sudden cardiac events occur in men and half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. So, yes it is time to give this pulsating energy core some extra thought and love. There is a lot you can do to make sure your heart stays healthy. The AHA released new guidelines in Nov. 2013 that urged people to fill up on produce and whole grains, break a sweat for at least 40 minutes a few times a week and keep cholesterol in check.
Do not forget that, a few minor lifestyle changes can lead to a healthier ticker and by extension, clearer skin, a sharper brain, higher energy levels, better fertility and longevity.

Take these terms to heart and know your numbers!

Every adult should know the “terms and conditions” of a better hearth health plan. This entails keeping track of blood pressure, waist measurement, weight, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Here are some useful terms and indicators to get familiar with. Cardiovascular Disease: Heart and blood vessel conditions, including coronary artery disease, heart failure and heart valve problems, among others.

Learn these terms and know your numbers

Metabolic Syndrome: A dangerous cluster of conditions (high blood pressure, excess abdominal fat, uncontrolled cholesterol levels, and glucose intolerance-pre-diabetes) that can send you spiraling toward heart disease. It’s rising quickly among women ages 20 to 39 and is often preventable or reversible through diet and exercises.

Cholesterol: A waxy fat created in the liver which is circulated in the bloodstream. Friendly high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good” heart-protecting cholesterol. High levels of bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can lead to the sticky plaque deposits that cause arterial blockages.

Triglycerides: Usually lumped together with cholesterol, these are any type of calories stored as fat that the body uses for energy.
Left unburned, triglyceride levels will shoot up, increasing your risk for heart disease.

Lifesaver ratio: HDL is closely related to triglycerides. It is common for people with high levels of triglycerides to have low levels of HDLs and these same people also tend to have high levels of clotting factors in their blood stream. A Harvard study recently reported: “High triglycerides alone increased the risk of heart attack nearly threefold and people with the highest ratio of triglycerides to HDL – the ‘good’ cholesterol – had 16 times the risk of heart attack as those with the lowest ratio of triglycerides to HDL. Therefore, in adults, the triglyceride/ HDL “good” cholesterol ratio should be below two (just divide your triglycerides level by your HDL).

Blood pressure: Your blood pressure can indicate if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease, a stroke or kidney disease. Measure your blood pressure once a month by taking a reading three times (at wake-up, after lunch and resting hours in the evening) and record the average. Be particularly aware of the top number, the systolic pressure, which indicates the pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood, the best lifelong measurement for hypertension. A systolic reading above 130 is considered to indicate hypertension and above 140 is considered too high and demands visiting a doctor.

Waist size: The key number which indicates overall health and also the risk of liver disease, diabetes and heart disease. Use measuring tape to determine waist size at the belly button once a month.
The number should be less than half of your height. If it is higher, the test indicates you are at risk of contracting heart disease and diabetes.

Blood sugar: This number must be measured after an eight-hour fast, so it’s best to do it first thing in the morning, before you’ve had breakfast. Your fasting blood sugar can be determined with a simple blood test or even with a finger stick test. A fasting blood sugar number above 100 is considered to be a pre-diabetic state and it is advised that you should consult your physician.