According to the American Heart Association, your 50s are when heart disease risk factors start to appear due to various factors from genetic predisposition to weight accumulation to inactivity. To keep your heart healthy as you age, you need to be smart about your fluids and hydration–not just your food intake.
Looking to improve your drinking habits for better heart health? Here are the drinking habits you must avoid, according to registered dietitians. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss Eating Habits to Avoid For Better Heart Health After 50, Say Dietitians.
Drinking alcohol in excess.
"Avoiding high consumption of alcohol can stop your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels from increasing, all of which are linked to risk of heart disease," says registered dietitian Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition and a spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women."
Drinking too much alcohol may increase your risk for many health problems, "however there are some studies that support alcohol consumption in moderation," says Caroline Susie, RDN, LD, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, but she urges that "if you do not drink alcohol, do not start!" (The American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine or any other form of alcohol to gain potential health benefits.)
Relying on energy drinks
"Consuming energy drinks can cause changes in heartbeat and blood pressure," says Valdez. "They can raise your blood pressure and increase your QT interval, which is how long it takes for your heart to recharge in between beats. A long QT interval can lead to heart rhythm disorders and an increased risk of stroke."
If you're looking for an energy boost, you don't have to swear off caffeine entirely to make sure your heart stays in shape after 50—just switch from sugar-laden energy drinks to tea. "Black and green tea may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by 10% to 20%," notes Susie. She also adds that some research has shown a reduced risk of heart disease in people who drink green or black tea regularly.
Not drinking fluids throughout the day.
New research suggests that middle-aged adults can lower their long-term risk for heart failure by simply drinking enough water on a daily basis. "Drinking enough water is good for your muscles, including your heart," says Susie.
"Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, and chronic dehydration can affect your heart health," says Susie. "Chronic dehydration is associated with obesity and cardiovascular disease. A Loma Linda University Health study found that people who drank more than 5 glasses of water a day had about half the risk of dying of coronary heart disease."
"Hydration needs vary based on age, gender, location, physical activity, your health status, and more," says Susie. While fluid needs vary, the Heart Foundation recommends women consume 11 cups of fluids daily, while men should aim for 15.5 cups. You can hit this target with non-water fluids, including sparkling water, iced tea, and coffee, as well as food! "Twenty percent of your hydration needs can be met from food," says Susie, recommending high-water content foods like cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon, lettuce, cabbage, celery, spinach, and cooked squash. Even some dairy products like yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese can contain 70-89% water.
"Want to ensure you are drinking enough? The color of your urine is a great source! If the color is concentrated, you need to push fluid. The color goal is lemonade vs apple juice," says Susie.
Enjoying too many high sodium drinks.
"Keeping your sodium intake in check can help prevent high blood pressure," says Valdez. "High blood pressure can lead to heart problems like a thickened left ventricle which increases the risk of heart failure. So important to read food labels. If products don't have fat in them, carbohydrate drinks may be paired with sodium." (A big culprit: canned vegetable juices.)
Although some canned vegetable juices can have extraordinarily high levels of sodium, not all fruit and vegetable juices will affect your heart health in a negative way. In fact, it's quite the opposite when it comes to fruit juice.
"Low to moderate pure fruit juice consumption, on the other hand, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke," says Valdez. "This may be due to the polyphenol antioxidants like flavonoids found in pure fruit juices which have been linked to decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease."
Avoid consumption of drinks with trans fats.
"Avoiding foods (and drinks) that may contain trans fats can prevent your LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol) from increasing to prevent the risk for heart disease," says Valdez. These include non-dairy creamers, frozen and other creamy drinks.
Tips to stay hydrated
Planning ahead when it comes to your hydration needs is key to getting enough fluids to protect your heart, says Susie. Here are a few tips to make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day:
- Opt for water: Instead of soda or energy drinks go with a tall glass of water.
- Drink water throughout the day: Consume water with meals, as well as between meals.
- Carry a refillable water bottle: Keep water handy, so it's there when you want to reach for a drink.
- Add a flavor enhancer: For variety, squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into your water, toss in a couple of cucumber slices or add a few fresh basil leaves.
And for more, check out these 6 Best Drinking Habits for a Longer Life, Say Dietitians.