The heart is just a relatively small organ, about the size of one’s fist, but it is the strongest muscle in your body, responsible for keeping you alive and well every day, every minute, every second.

While the heart’s role in pumping blood and oxygen to your lungs and body, as well as getting rid of the unwanted carbon dioxide from the bloodstream, is central to your overall well-being, the heart is also susceptible to cardiovascular conditions, such as heart disease and stroke: conditions that are notoriously known to be some of the world’s biggest killers, claiming 17.9 million lives globally each year.

What’s more alarming is the fact that half of the cardiovascular disease cases occur in Asia. Age is a dominant risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases, with the prevalence of these diseases increasing as one grows older. In fact, the prevalence of heart failure among the adult population in developed countries rises from one to two percent, to over 10 percent among those aged 70 years or older, and 80 percent of those who die of heart disease are aged 65 and above.

In a study conducted by the National University Heart Centre Singapore (NUHCS) and National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), it was also found that Asians develop heart failure a decade earlier as compared with their Western counterparts. Patients from the Philippines have the youngest mean age of developing heart failure at 54 years old, as compared to the rest of Asia (Indonesia – 56 years old; Taiwan – 63 years old; South Korea – 63 years old; Japan – 65 years old; Hong Kong – 68 years old). In comparison, the average age of European patients with heart failure stands at 71 years old.

Tips on Hearth Health and Healthy Aging

Given these statistics, it is now more important than ever before to start caring for your heart, especially if you are around the age of 40 or older.

Here are five great tips to get you started on this journey, for a healthier life now and into the future.

Tip #1: Understand your health risk.

The key to maintaining a healthy heart is to know your health numbers. Make an effort to visit your doctor for health checks on a regular basis. You should schedule a full medical exam at least once a year, or pop by a health clinic for a quick assessment from time to time.

It should be highlighted that high blood pressure is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, which is particularly concerning given that high blood pressure is a “silent killer” with no warning signs or symptoms. Therefore, it is imperative to check your blood pressure regularly. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can put you at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

Tip #2: Cut down on unhealthy living habits.

Cutting down on smoking is the single best thing you can do to protect your heart, and the good news is that the risk to your heart health decreases significantly after you stop. Smoking can damage the lining of your arteries, leading to a build-up of fatty material (atheroma) which narrows the artery. Some may experience chest pain known as angina as a warning, but many find out that this narrowing of the artery has occurred when it results in a heart attack or stroke.

Make it a point to kick the habit, and stick to it! Throw away your tobacco, lighters, and ashtrays, and make way for nicotine replacement products. Quitting this unhealthy habit will prove more beneficial for your body than you think.

Tip #3: Maintain a heart-healthy diet.

Based on our Global Nutrition Philosophy, the ideal calorie consumption should comprise 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent healthy fats, coupled with 25 grams of fiber and adequate hydration – around eight glasses of water per day.

To further boost your heart health, follow a dietary pattern of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains for your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. For healthy fats, foods like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and tuna), flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and soybeans are jam-packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Not only is fish a great substitute for foods like beef, which is high in saturated fat, the omega-3s also help to support a healthy cardiovascular system by helping to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Tip #4: Get your heart pumping.

The benefits of exercising and regular physical activity are far more than just losing weight or looking good. In addition to improving overall bodily health, exercise helps our blood vessels relax and widen, allowing blood to flow more efficiently and nourish our heart. This stimulates the production of nitric oxide in the body, which controls, regulates, and protects the cardiovascular system, making sure that you have a healthier heart.

To kickstart an active lifestyle, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day. If you find that hard to achieve, try sneaking in short walks throughout your day at work, park farther away from the office, or use a standing workstation at your desk to avoid staying seated all day.

Tip #5: Lower your stress levels.

While there are no clear direct links between high levels of stress and the incidence of heart disease, stress itself could pose a risk to the health of your heart.

Stress can result in you having higher blood pressure, cause you to overeat, exercise less, or smoke more than usual. Long-term stress can also cause your body to develop elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which increases the risk of having a heart attack.

For the sake of your well-being, make it a point to take some time out to relax and engage in activities that you enjoy. People with lower stress levels are more likely to exercise and eat well, both of which are important for keeping a healthy heart.

At the end of the day, adopting a healthy and active lifestyle can go a long way in keeping heart disease at bay. If you haven’t already started, now is the time to incorporate one or more of these tips into daily living to keep your heart pumping strong now and in the decades to come.

One thing’s for sure: your heart will thank you for it as you age!

Kent L. Bradley, M.D., MBA, MPH – Chief Health and Nutrition Officer

Kent L. BradleyM.D., MBA, MPH – Chief Health and Nutrition Officer

Dr. Kent Bradley is the chief health and nutrition officer for Herbalife Nutrition. He is responsible for all nutrition and product training. Dr. Bradley is a retired Army colonel, graduate of the United States Military Academy. He holds a master’s in public health from the University of Minnesota, an Executive MBA from the University of Denver and a medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He is board certified in public health and preventive medicine and holds a certificate in corporate governance from INSEAD. An avid enthusiast for staying active through a mix of team sports and outdoor activities, Dr. Bradley’s favorite products include Herbalife24® Rebuild Strength and Herbalifeline®.