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6 things you need to stop doing before you’re 40 for your heart

It’s possible to get to 40 and not experience any heart problems, even if you have some less than ideal habits.

However, around that age, your body does not work as well as when you were 20, and if you haven’t been taking care of your body, you will begin to feel it. 

‘A number of risk factors for heart disease really start to go up in [a person’s] 40s,’ says Deepak Bhatt: the executive director of interventional cardiovascular programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart & Vascular Centre, and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Around 40, your body does not work as well as when you were 20, and if you haven’t been taking care of your body, you will start to feel it

‘The risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes all start to go up substantially,’ he said. 

In an interview with NetDocter, Bhatt describes the six major risky choices you can make for your heart on the way to 40, and some suggestions on how you can improve.


Smoking is a major cause of heart disease. Because quitting is hard, persistence is key, says Richard Stein, a cardiologist, and professor of medicine at New York University’s Langone Health.


Following a ‘fashionable’ fast for just one week can damage the heart, research suggested in February 2018.

Obese people who suddenly lower their calorie intake to just 600-to-800 units a day, experience heart-fat level increases of 44 per cent, a trial found today.

Despite such dieters on average losing six per cent of their total body fat after just seven days, this fat is released into their bloodstream and absorbed by their hearts, the researchers explained.

Although this excess heart fat balances out by week eight of dieting, for people with heart problems, it could leave them breathless and with an irregular beat, the scientists add.

Study author Dr Jennifer Rayner from the University of Oxford, said: ‘Otherwise healthy people may not notice the change in heart function in the early stages.

‘But caution is needed in people with heart disease.’

Heart disease, which is linked to obesity, affects more than 1.6 million men and one million women in the UK.

Dr Rayner added:’The heart muscle prefers to choose between fat or sugar as fuel and being swamped by fat worsens its function. 

‘People with a cardiac problem could well experience more symptoms at this early time point, so the diet should be supervised.

‘Otherwise healthy people may not notice the change in heart function in the early stage.’ 

The researchers analysed 21 obese volunteers with an average age of 52 and a BMI of 37kg/metre squared.

The study’s participants ate a very low-calorie diet every day for eight weeks.

MRI scans were taken at the start and end of the investigation, as well as after week one. 

Apparently, those who’ve managed to quit successfully did so after between seven and 10 initial failed attempts.

Stein advises talking to a GP and developing a strategy for yourself for the best results, while being aware that failure is a normal part of the quitting process.

Expanding waistline

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a poor diet and expanding waistline can contribute to heart disease.

Furthermore, once you reach the age of 40, bad dietary habits really start to show as your metabolism slows down.

‘Your metabolism is slowing, so if you’re doing what you’ve always done, you may start gaining weight,’ Dr. Bhatt says.

Better eating habits will help. However, Bhatt recommends weighing yourself every day to keep an eye on your weight.

Small fluctuations are natural, he says, but trends upward could be concerning and may mean reevaluating what you’re eating.

Ideally, you will stay within a margin of 15 pounds (or around 7kg) about the goal weight established during conversations with your GP.

Pigging out

Controlling portion size and not being greedy is key to a healthy heart.

Generally speaking, lowering your calorie intake is a good idea. More specifically, you can envision your foodin ball shapes to helpfully control your portion sizes. 

For instance, a fist of protein (85g), a tennis ball of grains (65g) and a baseball ball of greens (130g) per meal is normal.

In terms of fats, you should stick to just a single teaspoon of butter per portion, one of olive oil or two of nut butter.

Importantly, you should only eat when hungry. After a each meal, if you are still hungry, wait a little while. Eat a little more if your hunger persists, but only low calorie options like fruit and vegetables.

Not going to the gym – or going too much

Dr. Stein says that regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart throughout your life. He advises exercising 30 to 45 minutes per day, three to four times a week.

However, workouts that are too intensive can do damage just like having too little exercise.

‘Recognise that you can’t just get up and run a marathon,’ he says. 

Stress and a lack of strong relationships can be bad for your heart

Stress and a lack of strong relationships can be bad for your heart

‘When you’re 20, you can do that, but after 40, you need a five-to-10-minute warm-up and cool down.’ 

He says when you’re older, to think of yourself like a car that’s been left outside overnight in the cold. 

‘It could still be a very high-performance machine, but it needs time to warm up,’

Being too stressed

Stress is impossible to avoid – but Bhatt says it’s important to find ways to relax and find time to distance yourself from stressors.

He recommends mindfulness as a way of centring yourself when you feel stressed. 

Keeping people at arm’s length

Surprisingly, the company you keep can impact your heart’s health.

A study from 2016 found people who were lonely or isolated were almost a third more likely to develop cardiac problems, for example.

Michael Miller, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says studies like these prove it is all the more important to invest  in and maintain friendships. 

If not for your social life, then for your physical health.