Are you doing enough to look after your heart?


Photo: Getty Images

As we age, prioritising heart health becomes increasingly important. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives per year. The risk of heart-related issues rises as the years pass, so adopting healthy habits can significantly mitigate these risks.

Mayo Clinic Healthcare’s Professor Stephen Brecker says: “Living an active life makes a big difference in improving heart health and it’s never too late to make changes to your health behaviour.”

From staying physically active to having regular check-ups, there are many strategies to maintain optimal heart health well into our golden years.

One of the cornerstones of heart health is regular physical activity. While walking is often recommended and certainly good for you, it's essential to go beyond merely strolling and introduce other activities. Activities that promote muscle strength and tone through resistance training are particularly beneficial. Resistance training not only prevents muscle loss but also helps maintain mobility, which is key to overall heart health.

Studies have shown that maintaining muscle mass can also delay cognitive decline and reduce the risk of conditions such as dementia. Resistance training doesn't have to mean heavy lifting or intense workouts. Simple exercises using resistance bands, light weights, or even body weight can effectively strengthen muscles and improve overall cardiovascular health. We should aim for a well-rounded fitness regimen that includes both aerobic exercises, like walking or swimming, and resistance training to reap the maximum benefits.

In addition to keeping fit, we must also be vigilant about specific cardiovascular conditions that become more prevalent with age. One being heart valve disease, where one or more of the valves in the heart don’t work properly. Heart valves maintain blood flow through the heart in the correct direction but occasionally, a valve doesn't open or close all the way, and this can change how blood flows through the heart to the rest of the body causing your heart to have to work harder.

A type of heart valve disease called aortic valve stenosis is increasingly common in the elderly population. Fortunately, advances in medical technology have introduced minimally invasive methods to treat this condition, offering a less invasive alternative to traditional surgery.

One such breakthrough is the transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) procedure, which is overtaking surgery in many groups of patients as the standard of care. Professor Stephen Brecker has played a pivotal role in the development and advancement of this procedure, providing a safer and more effective option for managing the condition. He is now involved in the next frontier for transcatheter valve technology, providing options for transcatheter mitral valve replacement.

By adopting heart healthy habits and staying proactive, we can enjoy a better quality of life and reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications as we age.

Mayo Clinic Healthcare, in Portland Place London, provides a comprehensive, integrated and streamlined approach to clinical assessment, thorough investigations and a clear management plan. Its cardiologists offer a wealth of expertise and advanced diagnostics testing to ensure a clear understanding of your condition, which are vital to tailoring effective treatments to you. It is also the front door to Mayo Clinic Rochester, USA and over 5,000 physicians across every speciality. Learn more about Mayo Clinic Healthcare’s state-of-the-art health services at or call 020 7871 2575.

Professor Stephen Brecker is an expert in general and interventional cardiology and is a consultant cardiologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London.

He has interests in heart valve disease, coronary artery disease, hypertension, heart muscle disease and the cardiological interface with stroke. He has been an active researcher and innovator throughout his career and this led to a medical device that bears his name, the BreckerWire, which is used around the world every day in heart surgeries. He has over 200 publications including peer-review papers, book chapters, editorials and books.

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