Your heart is a strong muscle responsible for letting blood flow that brings oxygen and nutrients all throughout your body. It sends blood to other parts of your body through your arteries and it brings back blood and sends it to your lungs to get oxygen through your veins. However, as you age, your heart undergoes changes that affect its health and increases your risk of developing heart disease.

At an older age, the heart is not as strong in pumping blood as before. It may pump blood at the same rate as when you were younger but it will not be able to pump as much blood as before especially during physical activities and stress.

Other age-related changes that occur are the stiffening of the blood vessels, arteries and veins, and the thickening of the heart’s valves. Your family’s history on heart disease can also be a determining risk factor. While these things are beyond your control, there are things you can do to protect your heart and reduce risk of developing heart disease.

Here are ways to prevent heart disease for someone over age 50:

1. Avoid foods high in saturated fat.
One of the most common cardiovascular diseases in older adults is atherosclerosis which can cause heart attack or stroke. It occurs when blood vessels are narrowed because of the buildup of plaque made up of cholesterol, fats and calcium.

The plaque can either partially or totally block blood vessels which can result to various diseases. It can also break off from where it occurred and travel into the bloodstream until it gets stuck. If it gets stuck in a blood vessel that carries blood to the heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke can occur. Another possibility is the formation of clot where the plaque occurred which can also impede blood flow.

High levels of cholesterol from your diet contribute to the buildup of plaque. Foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty meat, meat products, full dairy, dairy products, and butter can increase cholesterol levels. Limit intake of these foods or choose foods that contain healthy fats, such as oats, beans, nuts, legumes, some fruits, and vegetables.
2. Exercise regularly.
Another contributing factor to the buildup of plaque is high levels of triglycerides in the blood. Triglycerides are called fats or lipids in the blood that gets stored in the body if not used as energy. Lack of physical activities and an unhealthy diet are main causes of high triglyceride levels.

Belly fat is an indication of triglyceride levels. A larger waist size indicates high triglyceride levels and an increased risk of developing heart disease.

According to the American Heart Organization, adults should exercise for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking and swimming. Or, you can do vigorous aerobic exercises, such as sprinting or running for 75 minutes per week.

In addition, you also need to perform exercises that work out all muscle groups in your body at least twice a week.

3. Quit Unhealthy Habits
If you smoke and drink alcohol excessively, now is the time to quit. Chemicals in tobacco can cause hardening of your arteries. Studies show that smokers are 70 percent more at risk of suffering from a heart attack than non-smokers. Meanwhile, heavy drinking can cause irregular heart rhythms and can contribute to weight gain.

It’s never too late to stop smoking. Did you know that when you stop smoking even for just two hours your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal? And, not smoking in 24 hours decreases your risk of suffering from a heart attack.

When it comes to alcohol intake, moderation is the key. On average, men should only drink two servings of alcohol while women should drink not more than one serving of alcoholic drink per day.

4. Follow doctor’s orders.
By now, you could probably be suffering from hypertension, high blood sugar levels, and other chronic health conditions that increase your risk of developing heart disease. It’s important that you follow your doctor’s treatment plan which includes your diet, physical activities, and medications.

Older adults are at risk of developing heart disease, but a healthy and active lifestyle helps to lower risk.