- 8 Evidence-based Tips for a Young Healthy Heart at Any Age - May 20, 2022
As the leading cause of death in the US, heart disease accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths. For heart attacks alone, more than 16 years of life are lost on average. At the same time, almost all risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases can be prevented with lifestyle choices we can all do. Even more, looking at the data reveals that many of these heart-healthy lifestyle habits are also correlated with increased lifespan and longevity.
In this overview, we collaborated with Dr. Shola Lajide, MD, an expert in preventative medicine and longevity. Dr. Shola reviewed some of the key evidence and also shared her top lifestyle tips we can all do to keep our heart young and healthy at any age.
Heart health and longevity
According to the CDC, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, about 659,000 people die from cardiovascular disease. To put this number in perspective, one person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease.
It’s for this reason I find it important that we understand the risks of heart disease and take the right measures to keep our hearts young and healthy. Heart health is a vital key longevity factor we must consider that is often overlooked.
In fact, studies have shown us there is a lot we can do to optimize the health and longevity of our hearts.
I’ve seen so many lives affected by cardiovascular disease. But then, knowing that most risk factors can be prevented, it’s with great passion I share this information to encourage our world to make the changes necessary to live a longer, happier, and more vibrant life.
I welcome you all to educate yourself and share this information with your friends, family, and loved ones.
Before we get into the changes in the heart that happen with age, let’s take a quick look at the main functions of the cardiovascular system:
- Transport nutrients, oxygen, hormones throughout the body, and remove metabolic waste (carbon dioxide, nitrogenous waste)
- Help the immune system by circulating white blood cells, antibodies, and proteins that protect and defend the body
- Regulate body temperature, fluid pH, and water contents of cells
- Circulates proteins in the blood that help with blood clotting and aid in tissue repair after an injury
The continued loss or compromise of any of these functions can significantly reduce lifespan. Although chronological age is the largest independent risk factor that we cannot control, there are actions we can take to protect our heart and improve cardiac aging.
What happens to our heart when we age
Research has shown us there are functional and structural changes with cardiac aging leading to a decline in cardiac functions. Due to the heart’s need to compensate for the dysfunctions, there is an increase in stress on the heart. The ongoing presence of these dysfunctions significantly increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Since there are a variety of problems that can arise from the compromise in heart activity, affecting the heart muscle, vascular/circulatory system, and heartbeat, there are different types of heart disease that may develop.
To give you an idea, some of these changes include:
- Thickening or narrowing of the atrioventricular valves, potentially leading to incomplete valve closure and the presence of both systolic and diastolic murmur
- With progression of heart failure, we see fibrosis, accumulation of misfolded proteins, and dysfunctional mitochondria.
- Aging is also correlated with the manifestation of atherosclerotic heart disease, due to fatty plaques that hardens and narrows the inner walls of blood vessels. This can lead to complete blockage of the blood vessel and more.
What causes cardiac aging
Now let’s discuss the pathophysiology of cardiac aging. There are known mechanisms that result in cardiovascular aging and when decreased lead to longevity. Some of the major pathophysiological mechanisms known to correlate with the some of the hallmark of aging:
- Oxidative stress
- Telomere shortening
- Misfolded proteins
- Abnormal glucose metabolism and lipid disorders
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Impaired autophagy and mitophagy
- Arterial hypertension, or stiffness
How to keep your heart healthy as you age
Here is some more good news. Almost all risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease can be prevented! According to the CDC, nearly 80% of cardiovascular cases are preventable. In fact, the American Heart Association reports even modest changes in diet and lifestyle can reduce the risk of heart disease by 20-30%.
With all these studies, we see a similar pattern with many other chronic diseases such as type II diabetes. Prevention is by far the most effective strategy to achieve optimal health and longevity.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease, however, it’s not too late to start living a heart-healthy life. The sooner the changes are made the sooner you can begin to restore health and support your cardiovascular system.
Top longevity habits for a healthy heart
Below are some of the key lifestyle consideration that have been shown to play an important role in your heart and overall longevity:
1: Avoid common risk factors
Almost half of all Americans have at least 1 of 3 major risk factors for heart disease. Heart disease is typically the result of progressive metabolic disorders, irregular heartbeat, and damage to the arteries around the heart.
Besides some genetic anomalies, we can control all the other risk factors, which include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
- Hyperlipidemia (high levels of lipids such as fats, cholesterol, and triglycerides)
- High-stress levels
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Poor Diet
- Systemic inflammation
- Chronic infections
- Excess alcohol consumption
2: Eat the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet
A compilation of evidence indicates that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to our overall health and longevity. Studies show that the cardioprotective effects (among many other benefits) of the Mediterranean diet are effective through various respects such as the high antioxidant elements in the diet.
Keep in mind, when it comes to nutrition, there’s no one size fits all, although the Mediterranean diet can be a very good place to start.
Foods to Eat
- Whole grains (in moderation, some people may benefit from limiting gluten)
- Legumes and beans (if they agree with you)
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Herbs and spices
- Cold pressed olive oil
- Wild small fish/seafood rich in omega 3 fats (watch the mercury content)
- Dairy and poultry are included in moderation (some people also may benefit from avoiding dairy, as it may cause inflammation)
Foods to avoid or limit
- Refined sugars and carbohydrates. Promote insulin resistance and fatty deposits known as triglycerides in the bloodstream.
- Processed grains (i.e. white flour)
- Processed foods (question anything that comes in a box)
- Excessive Red meat (Limit to twice a week, choose grass-fed or pasture-raised meat)
- Foods high in triglycerides (i.e refined vegetable oils)
3: Consider fasting
Growing evidence reveals fasting activates autophagy and mitophagy which we know plays a key role in preventing diseases such as cancer, cardiomyopathy, and more. To date, fasting is one of the most studied lifestyle interventions shown to have promising effects on our lifespan and healthspan[10,11].
A deeper look into autophagy and mitophagy
These processes help keep the integrity and function of various cells (including cardiomyocytes) and organs in the body. This is important as there is an age-related decline in cellular quality control pathways such as autophagy and mitophagy.
- Autophagy is a lysosomal-dependent process by which a cell degrades and destroys old misfolded proteins and clears damaged organelles within the cytoplasm.
- Mitophagy. When damaged mitochondria are removed it is known as mitophagy.
The good news is that while impaired autophagy and mitophagy progress aging, we can practice fasting among other things to improve these processes that can extend lifespan.
You can start intermittent fasting by simply skipping breakfast.
4: Supplements for heart longevity
With age and the changing demands of your body, the cardiovascular system requires nutrients that we can’t always get enough from our diet. Although it is preferred that we get our nutrients through whole foods, sometimes supplements are needed and recommended to ensure the body has what it needs to function optimally.
Some of the common supplements shown to support heart health (and also healthy aging), include:
These healthy fats naturally found in fatty fish have shown to help reduce triglycerides, reduce the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat and slow the buildup of plaque which hardens and blocks the arteries.
Omega 3 fatty acids are especially important if you don’t like fish or have access to high-quality sources of wild fish that are also low in mercury such as Wild Alaskan salmon.
Aim for omega 3’s fish oil (DHA and EPA) from a trusted source that guarantees their potency and purity. Vegan plant-based options include Algae oil. Read the label to make sure there are both EPA and DHA.
There are several natural nutrients that have been studied for their ability to activate longevity pathways in the body, similarly to the pathways that occur when we fast or restrict our calories. Based on the evidence, consuming these ingredients may play an important role as a natural age-related disease preventive strategy.
So, while the list may be long, some of the more studied nutrients include:
- Curcumin. The anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin was shown to have a protective role in cardiovascular disease.
- Quercetin. Demonstrated several heart-related benefits including inhibition of LDL oxidation, reduction of adhesion molecules and other inflammatory markers, and support key heart functions.
- Berberine. Shown to protect heart failure and regulate some of the main risk factors of heart disease such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, insulin resistance, arrhythmias, and platelet aggregation.
- Resveratrol. Multiple studies have shown it may mimic the potential healthy aging effect of calorie restrictions and fasting, including a protective effect against age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and type II diabetes
As I have mentioned, it is not always possible to get some of these ingredients from whole foods. I also find that for many people, it is not practical or convenient to take so many supplements.
LongeviLife is a natural longevity blend that I highly recommend, that combines these ingredients (and others) in an easy-to-use liquid form you need to take in the morning, 5 days a week. Multiple studies have shown that the ingredients in LongeviLife can activate the body’s own longevity genes, which can help protect the heart, brain, and many other organs and systems in the body as we age.
5: Increase physical activity
Sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity are strongly correlated with heart disease mortality. Regular exercise, however, may help not just for prevention but also to slow the progression of the disease.
There are various of recommendations for activities that are best for heart health, but I think the best physical activity to combat this risk is the one you love and will continue to do (according to your fitness level).
6: Manage your stress levels
Many studies have found a correlation between high stress levels to risk factors such as high blood pressure and inflammation that can predispose you to cardiovascular disease.
Considering that psychological stress is so common in our modern life, it is therefore essential to be mindful of the different stressors in your life and make adjustments where necessary.
7: Get enough sleep
Sleep is our body’s opportunity to repair damages to maintain normal function. It is where the majority of the healing takes place including autophagy and the release of powerful anti-aging hormones such as growth hormones.
Multiple studies in humans have shown that longevity is associated with regular sleep patterns. On the flip side, age-related factors such as inflammation, oxidative stress, mitochondrial decline and cellular senescence have been affected by sleep deprivation.
The recommended amount of sleep for most people is seven to eight hours, however, most Americans are not getting such. It’s crucial that we don’t dismiss our sleep as a luxury we can’t afford. it’s a basic NEED!
Here are a few quick tips to help improve your sleep:
- Establish a consistent nighttime routine that helps you relax before bed and stick to it
- Avoid artificial light like from the screen of your phone or tv. Ideally, at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Try not to eat or drink a few hours before bed. On the other hand, be mindful if you have blood sugar issues as they may interrupt your sleep. Also, do not go to sleep when you are hungry.
8: Consider your emotional health
Research has revealed that a decline in mental health places stresses on the cardiovascular system. I strongly believe your mental health, or the emotional aspect of your heart is just as important as the health of your entire body.
The patients I’ve seen thrive the most are those who have made an intentional effort to incorporate activities that benefit their wellbeing, joy, and relaxation.