These Health Symptoms in Your 40s May Point to Heart Disease Later in Life

We all want to enjoy the second halves of our lives. We want to travel, read, and do all the things we never felt we had time for when we were younger. We don’t want to think about what life might be like if we spent our retirement years miserable and sick.

One of the hardest parts about accepting older age is realizing your health won’t be the same. Your risk for disease will increase. But you don’t have to wait until your health declines to take charge of your life. If you’re at risk for heart disease and related conditions, your doctor will tell you so. And you can still do something about it.

How common is heart disease in the U.S.?

Stethoscope sitting on an red ECG printout

It’s more common than you might think. | iStock.com/RTimages

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 600,000 people die from it every year. That means it’s responsible for every 1 in 4 deaths nationwide.

One of the biggest mistakes middle-aged men and women make is thinking they’re not at risk, and don’t have to worry about their heart health “yet.” Many of them are more at risk than they believe.

Next: Are you at risk? You might be surprised to learn the answer.

Who has the highest risk of heart disease?

Middle-aged businessman suffering chest pains

Age is a big factor. | iStock.com/mheim3011

While it’s true that your heart disease risk increases as you age, people 55 and older might face higher risk because they didn’t do more to protect themselves earlier in their lives.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are a number of controllable risk factors that point to later-onset heart problems. Let’s look at these in more detail — you might live with these issues and not realize how dangerous they actually are.

Next: Even taking medication for this condition might not be enough.

High blood pressure

Doctor's Hand Checking Blood Pressure

Keep an eye on your numbers. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

High blood pressure can kill you without a heads-up. Some people live with high blood pressure for years and don’t experience any negative symptoms, which is why they call it a “silent killer.” Uncontrolled, it can and will damage your heart, blood vessels, and more.

Unfortunately, you’re still at risk even if you’re on medication to treat high blood pressure. That’s why doctors recommend medication in addition to weight loss methods like exercise.

Next: Has your doctor talked to you about this common health symptom?

High cholesterol

Cholesterol level chart

Knowing your cholesterol numbers is important. | iStock.com/designer491

Cholesterol is complicated. You have to keep track of two different numbers — one that’s good, and one that isn’t. It’s easy to raise the good number, but difficult to lower the bad one.

Why does it really matter if your cholesterol levels aren’t what they should be? Too much of this and other substances in your blood can build up in your arteries — responsible for transporting blood from your heart to other organs. Too much buildup can lead to heart disease, a heart attack, and worse.

Next: This symptom could kill you if you aren’t careful.

High blood sugar

Person's Hand Checking Blood Sugar

Diabetes can be dangerous. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

The most common type of diabetes, Type 2, occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin. This can happen for a number of reasons, but it’s dangerous — especially if you don’t have it under control.

Diabetes impacts your blood vessels and heart, and increases your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack or stroke. The best way to guard against high blood sugar is strictly preventative, but most people at risk for developing diabetes don’t even know they’re in danger.

Next: This is one of the most common heart disease risk factors.

High body fat percentage

Woman trying to close jeans button with difficult from fat

Managing a healthy weight is more important than you might realize. | iStock.com/wckiw

You might roll your eyes when your doctor tells you for the fiftieth time that you should consider losing weight. It’s likely they’re concerned about your heart — even if you’re in good health right now.

It’s not your weight alone that’s hurting your heart. It’s all the side effects that come with excess body fat — many factors already mentioned on this list. Your risk of high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar increases. There’s a lot of risk associated with something you can gradually work toward controlling.

Next: What are the poor health habits that produce unwanted results?

Other controllable risk factors

Pensive red-haired girl in bikini smoking on beach

Things like smoking increase your risk. | iStock.com/kiko_jimenez

Even if all your test results say you’re fine, there are a few bad habits that could set you up for heart trouble in the future.

Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for poor health later in life — affecting not just your lungs, but your heart as well. Avoiding regular physical activity and maintaining an unhealthy diet are also going to start hurting you before you even realize it.

Next: You can reduce your own heart disease risk — and you can start right now.

How women in their 40s can protect their hearts

Fitness concept and welfare with female athlete joggin in city park

Put your health first. | iStock.com/Bogdanhoda

It’s never too early — or too late — to put your heart health first. There’s nothing you can do about your gender, age, or family history. You can, however, take better care of your body.

Start making small changes now to keep yourself healthy in the long-term. Eat a few more servings of heart-healthy foods each week. Take an extra 20-minute walk here and there. You might not notice any differences now, but 10 years from now, you’ll be glad you did something.

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