10 tips to take care of your heart in retirement

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

With retirement, most people worry about having enough money and funding health care, but did you know that your heart health really should be at the top of your list of worries in retirement?

Humans often worry about the wrong things. And there’s significant evidence that heart health doesn’t get enough attention from retirees — or anyone.

Setting aside the COVID-19 pandemic, research has shown that the media pays far too much attention to causes of death like terrorism and homicide and not enough to the real number 1 killer in the United States: heart disease. .

The information from Our World in Data clearly shows the significant disconnect between what worries us and what will actually kill us.

In 2016, more than 30% of all deaths were caused by heart disease. However, heart disease accounted for only 2% of all searches on Google and around 2.5% of media coverage.

It really seems like we care about the wrong things. But that’s not the worst.

1. Your risk of having a heart attack increases after retirement

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A study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that retirees within a year of transitioning from work were 40% more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than those who were still working. The increase was most pronounced during the first year after retirement and leveled off thereafter.

The researchers gave several reasons why they saw a dramatic increase in heart attacks after people left work.

2. Retirement affects different people in different ways

Woman thinking about her retirement finances
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For people who had stressful jobs or whose jobs were emotionally unfulfilling or exhausting, retirement can be a relief. But for people who identify closely with their jobs, like college professors or doctors, leaving work can be extremely stressful.

3. Retirement can disrupt your social life

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People who spend decades in the same job, whether they identify with the job or not, will socialize with the people at their job more than anyone else. Leaving this environment is like losing your entire social circle all at once.

And strong friendships and personal relationships can be a necessary aspect of good health.

4. Job transition can diminish your sense of purpose

A stressed elderly woman bends over her laptop and her desk in a home office
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Work engages our minds as well as our bodies. For professionals, leaving work leaves a void that was once filled with mental challenges. Work also structures your life with goals and milestones. Once it’s gone, it’s possible to feel like your boat has lost its rudder.

5. Yes, surprise: retirement can be stressful!

Senior couple doing retirement planning and math
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These stressful life changes are why retirement is listed as one of the leading indicators of declining health in the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory test. Heart disease in its many forms, from chronic high blood pressure to heart attacks, can be exacerbated by the shock of the transition from work to retirement. A portion of your retirement plan should be dedicated to saving for health-related expenses, but an equal portion should be dedicated to preventing health problems now.

A good retirement will be one where you are active and free from financial stress. Just as you set aside a portion of money from every paycheck for retirement, you should take steps today to ensure you avoid poor health in the future.

6. Make your diet heart healthy

An older couple is preparing a healthy meal in their kitchen
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It’s easier said than done, but there’s absolutely nothing you can do (except for our next tip) that will set you up for a healthy retirement better than establishing good habits. food now.

A lot of common wisdom and official advice has changed over the past 20 years, which means the old advice about how much alcohol you should drink and how much sugar to accept may not be what you learned in as a young adult.

7. Exercise regularly

Happy senior couple putting on rollerblades for exercise
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It’s not news either, but the key to regular exercise is less exercise than “regular”.

Dr. Harvey Simon, associate professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, did a meta-analysis of 22 studies that showed that moderate exercise like walking at your normal pace for an hour a day significantly reduces the risk of cardiac disease.

In one study, just 15 minutes of moderate exercise led to an average increase in life expectancy of three years.

8. Find a purpose for your retirement

Happy senior couple in the kitchen
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The University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study found that “a higher purpose in life may play an important role in protecting against myocardial infarction in older American adults with coronary heart disease. “.

In English, that means the more purpose you find in everyday activities like volunteering, starting (and finishing!) new projects, and cultivating new friendships, the lower your risk of a heart attack.

9. Have a detailed written retirement plan

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Only 30% of Americans have a long-term financial plan that includes savings and investment goals. However, research shows that people who have a formal written retirement plan are more likely to feel confident and less stressed. In fact, they’re more than twice as likely to feel well prepared for retirement than those without a written plan.

Less stress equals better health. A Well-Drafted Retirement Plan Equals Better Health and wealth.

The NewRetirement Planner is the best, most comprehensive way to plan your retirement online. It’s easy to create and maintain a reliable plan for your future safety.

10. An Ounce of Prevention

Couple with healthy heart symbol
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Heart disease is both the leading cause of death in the United States and the most preventable. If you’ve taken the time to think about taking care of yourself and your loved ones after you stop working, you should also think about how to protect your health, especially your heart health, for them as well.

It’s as simple as putting money into your 401(k) or IRA, and the dividends you get are priceless.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click on links in our stories.

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