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Top 5 Risk Factors for Heart Disease

        Health | Heart

Take care of your heart for a better chance at a long and happy life.
Take care of your heart for a better chance at a long and happy life.
Deborah Jaffe/Getty Images

On average, your heart will beat up to 3.3 billion times before its final lub-dub [source: Roizen]. Any way you slice it, a workload that heavy causes plenty of wear and tear. As we age, not only do we have trouble finding our reading glasses, but our arteries harden, the ­walls of our hearts get thicker, and overall heart function decreases. In addition to the normal effects of aging, other contributing factors like high blood pressure and lack of exercise have been in play all those years, taking their tolls as well. All of this adds up to a pretty hefty statistic -- people age 65 and older make up 83 percent of all heart disease deaths [source: AHA].

Between the time we hit the big four-oh and the time we give up the ghost, men have an almost 1-in-2 chance of developing heart disease, and the odds are 1-in-3 for women [source: AHA]. While we can't stop time from marching onward, today's choices either exact a hefty toll or pay handsome dividends down the road. Obesity in middle age leads to an even higher chance of dying of heart disease when we get older [source: Science Daily]. Even if your heart strings are turning gray (good news: they don't, nor do they fall out), your heart can still be happy and healthy through your golden years.

In the next section, we'll learn how a healthy lifestyle can keep that heart ticking like an organ half its age.