Start Young: Why Heart Health Matters Now
If you own a car, what kind of care do you give it? Chances are, you don’t wait until it breaks down before taking it in for its first oil change. Instead, you likely change the oil every 3,000 miles and do maintenance at the recommended milestones. If your vehicle makes funny noises, the check engine light comes on, or it just “doesn’t run right,” you probably take it in to be looked at.
People care for their cars to avoid a breakdown. Preventive maintenance keeps automobiles rolling along the road without issue, performing properly.
Your heart is the same: It needs care throughout your life so that it can run smoothly, well into older age. Eating well, exercising, reducing stress and getting plenty of sleep are preventive maintenance for the body—things you can do daily to keep your organs and tissues healthy and functioning properly. And since heart health is one of the biggest concerns for both men and women, supporting cardiovascular wellness is one of the most important focuses for everyone, starting with childhood. In fact, research published in the journal The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society showed that indicators of heart health can start as early as the first decade of life!
Thankfully, you don’t have to wait until you’re in your 60s or 70s to see the benefits of a healthy heart. Your young body sees the results of cardiovascular wellness now, while supporting health into your older age. Here are just a few areas a healthy heart supports:
- Energy levels. When your heart is healthy, it delivers oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, tissues and cells of the body so they can work properly. The more efficiently your heart and body work, the more energy you have throughout the day, and the more you’re able to accomplish.
- Athletic performance. An efficient heart results in healthy blood flow, which delivers oxygen to exercising muscles. Oxygen is needed for the repeated muscle contraction necessary during exercise and is also an important part of recovery after athletic activity.
- Sexual function. Research shows that sexual function and heart health are often related. Sexual organs have arteries just like any other organ in the body, and those arteries must be able to expand and contract properly, allowing blood to flow to the organs. A strong heart supports healthy blood flow, which carries oxygen and nutrients to your sexual organs and supports arousal and function.
- Appearance. Yes, the steps you take to get heart-healthy—weight loss, exercise and nutrition—all contribute to your looks. But the basis of cardiovascular wellness is a healthy endothelium, which produces more of the critical signaling molecule Nitric Oxide (NO). This molecule acts as an antioxidant, which has a range of benefits in the body, including heart health.
- Brain health. A healthy heart supports blood flow to the entire body, including the brain. Have you ever noticed that, after moderate exercise, you feel more alert and invigorated? That’s because exercise gets your heart pumping harder, so it supports delivery of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to your brain. Increased blood flow to the brain supports memory, alertness and focus.
Cars are replaceable. You aren’t. By taking a preventive approach to heart health when you’re young, you not only help ensure that your body will keep running smoothly as you age, but you also get some great benefits in the meantime.
What preventive maintenance do you do to keep your heart and body healthy?