Heart disease is already the leading cause of death in Americans, but the risk of heart disease increases as we age. Fortunately, heart disease is completely preventable. However, trying to keep heart healthy as we grow older can sometimes present new challenges such as overall health (i.e., flexibility, endurance), other ailments (i.e., arthritis or depression), changes in finances (less money for healthier food, gym membership) and other factors such as a lack of transportation. The good news is that most all of these challenges don’t have to become excuses. Here are 5 ways seniors (or anyone) can improve their heart health.
Exercise regularly, but do exercises that are suited for you. An attainable goal should be about 30 minutes most days of the week. You also can break it into 10-minute sessions if you don’t have much time. If you have a normal exercise routine already, then continue to do that as long as you are able. If you have limited mobility, you can even exercise from your chair to reduce impact but still get exercise. Always speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
- It is important to know your cholesterol and triglyceride numbers. Risk of high blood pressure and high blood sugar all increase with age. In fact, 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other illnesses. It is important to have your doctor test your regularly so you know what you need to do to keep them under control.
- Eat fruits and vegetables every day. The best place to make sure your nutrition is well balanced is with MyPlate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make sure you are getting enough nutrition from each food group. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, make sure more than half of your grains are whole grains and limit saturated and trans fats.
- Stop smoking. No matter how long you have been smoking, you will reap the benefits as soon as you quit such as your breath will smell better, no more bad smelling clothes and hair, sense of smell will return to normal and food tastes better to name a few (American Cancer Society). Long-term health benefits include your heart and blood pressure dropping, an increase in lung function, improved circulation and a decrease of risk of stroke and many cancers.
- Maintain a healthy weight. The Body Mass Index is used to calculate a healthy weight. Find out your BMI and change your diet and exercise routine to help meet your goal. Taking steps such as exercising and eating healthier by staying away from “junk” foods, alcohol and other empty calories will help you maintain a healthy weight.
To keep heart healthy as you age, maintain a overall healthy lifestyle and weight. Make sure you call 911 as soon as you recognize any signs of a heart attack including chest pain, shortness of breath, discomfort in other areas of upper body, nausea, feeling lightheaded or cold sweat.
It is always important to speak with your doctor about your lifestyle including diet, medications and exercise. Communication with your caregivers including your physician is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov
National Heart Lung and Blood Association, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/