25 Heart Risk Factors You Need to Pay Attention to After 40

Where you live and what you put in your coffee affects your most vital organ.

25 Heart Risk Factors You Need to Pay Attention to After 40

When you reach your 40s, your heart health becomes more of a concern than ever before. According to a 2015 report from the American Heart Association (AHA), approximately 6.3 percent of men and 5.6 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 59 battle coronary heart disease each year. And those rates nearly double as the decades go on.

To avoid becoming a statistic, the best thing you can do—in addition to being acutely aware of the common heart attack symptoms—is brush up on some heart risk factors that may be putting you in harm’s way.

Not taking enough vacation time.

Older Couple on Vacation Heart Risk Factors Shutterstock

It turns out, a weeklong getaway at the beach is just what the doctor ordered. In one 2000 study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers found that middle-aged men who took frequent vacations were less likely to die from coronary heart disease over a nine-year period compared to men who never took advantage of their PTO.

Similarly, the researchers documented that 24 percent of participants who vacationed infrequently suffered from a nonfatal cardiovascular event during the trial, compared to 19 percent of frequent vacationers.

Being magnesium deficient.

Foods with Magnesium Heart Risk Factors Shutterstock

If you’re worried about your heart, then you should consider getting your magnesium levels checked. As one 2005 study published in the journal Clinical Calcium notes, “magnesium deficiencies are common and can be associated with risk factors and complications of heart failure.”

The good news is that there’s an easy fix for low magnesium levels. According to Natalie Collier, MScN, a clinical nutritionist with Wellnicity, you can add magnesium through supplements or through foods like legumes, whole grains, and fatty fish.

Eating a meat-heavy diet.

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It might be worth adopting a vegetarian diet once you make it to your fourth decade. When a team at the Cleveland Clinic compared the effects of red meat, white meat, and no meat at all on healthy individuals, they found that those eating red meat had triple the amount of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a dietary byproduct that contributes to heart disease.

Getting the flu.

Sick Man Sneezing and Blowing Nose {Common Cold Treatment} Shutterstofck

If you don’t want to have a heart attack, then make sure you get your flu shot every year. One 2018 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed 360 patients hospitalized with heart attacks and found that they were six times more likely to end up in the hospital the week after being diagnosed with the flu compared to years they didn’t have the contagious respiratory illness.

Having an excessive amount of wrinkles.

older woman looking at her dry skin Heart Risk Factors Shutterstock

Of course, most adults over the age of 40 have at least some wrinkles, but an excessive amount of deep forehead folds could be an indication of a less-than-healthy heart, according to a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in 2018. The researchers followed 3,200 adults for 20 years, during which time 233 subjects died. Of these, 22 percent had forehead wrinkles and 2 percent had no wrinkles.

Undergoing breast cancer treatment.

Doctor Screening for Breast Cancer Heart Risk Factors Shutterstock

Of all the women in the United States diagnosed with breast cancer every year, fewer than 5 percent are under the age of 40, according to The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. And unfortunately, a 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that rates of coronary events increased by 7.4 percent for every gray of radiation (a unit used to measure the total absorbed energy of radiation) delivered during breast cancer treatment.

Living at a low altitude.

Washington DC, Heart Risk Factors Shutterstock

You might want to think twice before buying a home in a low-altitude city like Washington D.C. When Spanish researchers followed 6,860 undergraduates over a 10-year period, they found that those living at the highest altitudes had a much lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome—a collection of risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke—compared to those residing at low altitudes.

Having diabetes.

woman testing blood Heart Risk Factors Shutterstock

According to a 2019 study published in the journal Diabetes Care, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease—a buildup of plaque inside the heart’s arteries—is the leading cause of death among individuals with diabetes.

However, having diabetes doesn’t automatically mean that you are going to die of a heart problem. The same study notes that when other risk factors—like obesity, hypertension, and smoking—are kept in check, diabetes patients are much more able to manage their heart health.

Having psoriasis.

Woman with Psoriasis Heart Risk Factors Shutterstock

Psoriasis causes inflammation on both your skin and inside your body, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. If this inflammation goes untreated for a long period of time, it “may affect your heart and blood vessels, putting you at greater risk of developing heart disease.”

In fact, per one 2005 study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment, the prevalence of heart disease among people with psoriasis is 14 percent compared to 11 percent for the general U.S. population.

Living in a noisy area.

New York City Tourist Traps That Locals Hate Shutterstock

If you’ve spent most of your years living in a city, you may find yourself paying the price in your 40s and 50s. A 2015 study published in the European Heart Journal found that long-term exposure to noisy traffic is associated with a slightly elevated risk of cardiovascular death, particularly when it comes to strokes.

Developing late-onset asthma.

Man Using an Inhaler for his Asthma Heart Risk Factors Shutterstock

As the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America notes, “asthma symptoms can occur at any time in life.” But what does it have to do with your heart? Well, a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association followed participants for about 14 years and found that those with late-onset asthma had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Taking PPIs.

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PPIs, or proton-pump inhibitors, are drugs prescribed for heartburn and acid reflux. Though effective, a 2015 study from Stanford University found that these medications can increase a person’s chance of having a heart attack, especially if they’ve had one in the past. The researchers hypothesize that the drugs deplete nitric oxide levels, which the blood vessels need for proper blood flow and blood pressure regulation.

Suffering from migraines.

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Migraine sufferers should pay extra attention to their tickers. Per one 2009 study published in the journal Neurology, suffering from migraines—especially with aura (meaning flashes of light, blind spots, and other vision issues)—is a risk factor for ischemic lesions of the brain, angina, stroke, and heart attack.

Eating dinner right before bed.

Asian man sits up in bed late at night with plate of noodles, risks for heart disease 40s Shutterstock

Though it is the cultural norm to eat dinner late at night in some European and South American countries, doing so may have serious consequences. When Brazilian researchers analyzed data on heart attack patients in 2019, they found that those who tended to eat later were four to five times more likely to die as a result of the cardiac event, or to suffer from another heart attack within a month of being discharged from the hospital.

Skipping breakfast.

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Speaking of mealtimes, skipping breakfast is just as bad for your heart as eating dinner late at night. In the same 2019 study, researchers found that heart attack sufferers who regularly missed their morning meal were also four to five times more likely to die from the event or to have another heart attack within a month of leaving the hospital.

Using antibiotics for an extended period of time.

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Taking a week’s worth of antibiotics for strep throat isn’t a major heart risk factor in the long run. But you might want to be a bit wary if you’ve ever taken antibiotics for months at a time.

In one 2019 study published in the European Heart Journal, researchers found that women between the ages of 40 and 59 who took antibiotics for at least two months had an increased risk of heart problems. According to the scientists behind the study, taking antibiotics in excess can destroy the “good” bacteria in the gut, allowing for viruses and other bacteria to enter.

Having depression.

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If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, then you should seek out professional help—not just for the sake of your mental health, but for your heart health as well. In one 2018 study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, scientists found that adults over the age of 45 dealing with mental health issues like depression and anxiety had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Specifically, women with high psychological distress had a 44 percent increased risk of stroke and men with high psychological distress had a 30 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to those without mental health issues.

Smoking e-cigarettes.

Juul e-cigarette Shutterstock

Though e-cigarettes are often touted as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, research is emerging that counters these claims. For instance, one 2018 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that using e-cigarettes on a daily basis can nearly double a person’s heart attack risk.

Having high cholesterol.

Adult Man Eating a Burger Heart Risk Factors Shutterstock

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, more than 12 percent of adults ages 20 and older had total cholesterol higher than 240 mg/dL when it should be somewhere below 200 mg/dL. And this is especially bad for folks over the age of 40, seeing as one 2015 study published in the journal Circulation found that even slightly elevated cholesterol levels can impact an otherwise healthy individual’s heart health in the long term. According to the study, every decade that a person lives with high cholesterol is linked to a 39 percent increased risk of heart disease.

Having insomnia.

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Insomnia is just as bad for your heart as it is disruptive to your schedule. In one 2017 meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, for instance, researchers concluded that insomniacs have an increased risk of both heart attack and stroke. According to their findings, difficulty maintaining sleep is associated with an 11 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease, while non-restorative sleep leads to an 18 percent increased risk.

Yo-yo dieting.

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“Achieving a healthy weight is generally recommended as heart healthy, but maintaining weight loss is difficult and fluctuations in weight may make it harder to achieve ideal cardiovascular health,” Brooke Aggarwal, Ed.D., M.S., assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a statement.

When she and her team investigated 485 women with an average age of 37 years old, they found that those who had lost 10 pounds only to regain it within a year were 82 percent less likely to have an optimal body mass index. Seeing as BMI is directly correlated to heart risk factors, the study concluded that yo-yo dieting is less than beneficial for heart health.

Eating a high-sodium diet.

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“High blood pressure is often linked to sodium intake,” says Collier. And, according to WebMD, hypertension is closely linked with hypertensive heart disease, which includes everything from left ventricular hypertrophy to total heart failure. According to the American Heart Association, you should aim to consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, though 1,500 mg is the true ideal amount.

Losing teeth.

Older Man at the Dentist Getting His Gums Checked, look better after 40 Shutterstock

If you’re losing teeth in your 40s, you might want to visit the cardiologist in addition to your dentist. According to research presented at an American Heart Association event in 2018, middle-aged adults who lost two or more teeth showed an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. During the duration of the study, these participants had a 23 percent increased risk of heart problems compared to those who retained all their teeth.

Having gray hair.

man with gray hair outdoors, look better after 40 Shutterstock

Before you dye your gray hairs, listen to what your natural locks are trying to tell you about your heart health. One study presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s EuroPrevent 2017 examined 545 adult men and found that those with at least half a head of gray hair had an increased risk of coronary artery disease. According to the researchers, both atherosclerosis and the graying process “occur through similar biological pathways,” which might explain why one is indicative of the other.

Using artificial sweeteners.

artificial sweetener in coffee health tweaks over 40 Shutterstock/SpeedKingz

If you think that using artificial sweeteners in place of real sugar is helping your health, think again. One 2017 meta-analysis published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) concluded that there is a clear link between consuming artificial sweeteners and an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. You may be better off just sticking with the real stuff! And for more helpful health facts, don’t miss these 20 Habits That Slash Your Flu Risk.

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