Maintaining a healthy heart is important at any age, but maintaining heart healthy habits for seniors becomes even more important as the likelihood of heart illnesses increases as you age. Illnesses like heart disease, congestive heart failure, and heart attacks can potentially be avoided by taking actions to improve heart health.
To help keep your heart healthy- and happy- try using the following tips.
This is something often easier said than done, but if you want to see improvements to your heart health quitting smoking is the way to go. You can use patches, gum, nasal spray, inhalers, or lozenges to help with the cravings. Seeking help from a support group or finding support from friends and family can also help. Tobacco Free Life has a great guide to quitting smoking which you can find here.
Minimize Your Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol affects you differently as you age. The older you become, the ability for your body to clear alcohol decreases. In addition, certain medications that seniors are likely to be taking can get in the way with how the body metabolizes alcohol. Ask your doctor how your medication reacts with alcohol to determine the potential affects you could see when consuming alcohol. Reducing alcohol or eliminating it altogether can help reduce your blood pressure and risk to stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.
Another important way to keep your heart healthy is by exercising. If you are someone who rarely exercises, ask your doctor, who knows your overall health and any limitations you may have, for his or her recommendations on where to start.
Usually, the best place to start is simply walking. Start with a 10-minute walk 3-4 times a week until you can walk 30-40 minutes 3-4 times a week.
Light jogging is also a great exercise for seniors seeking a healthy heart. With jogging, start with a 10-minute jog until you can work your way up to 20 minutes.
Other great cardio exercises include light weight lifting, water aerobics, and yoga. Performing daily exercises or stretching can also help improve and maintain heart health.
Eat More Heart-Healthy Foods
It’s hard to completely transform your diet overnight, but starting small and working your way to a better diet can dramatically change your heart health as well as your overall health. Listed below are the types of food you should seek out to buy and others that you should avoid at the grocery store.
Buy:Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Find colourful fruits and vegetables. These will provide a large amount of vitamins, minerals, and fibre while being low in calories. Frozen fruits and vegetables without any added sugars can provide the benefits of fresh fruit while maintaining a lower cost. For the happiest of hearts, try to have at least 5 servings a day of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Nuts and High Fibre Foods
Fibre can be found in many foods like fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread and cereal, and beans. However, nuts are one of the best places to get fibre, especially almonds and walnuts. For a healthy heart, eat at least 5 servings a week of nuts or high fibre foods.
High Fat Dairy or Meat
High fat dairy and meat contain saturated fats which increase your bad cholesterol levels. Ultimately, these high cholesterol levels can lead to clogged arteries which is a direct cause of many life threatening heart problems. Instead, look for leaner and reduced fat options for both dairy and meat.
Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Ingredients
These terms if listed on an ingredients list indicate that trans-fat is in the product. Oftentimes, you can find these ingredients in processed foods like cakes, biscuits, frozen pizza, and stick margarine to name a few. Trans fat raises your bad cholesterol levels and therefore increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type two diabetes. Look for soft margarine as a butter substitute, limit the baked goods you eat that include trans-fat, use unhydrogenated vegetable oils like canola oil, and limit commercially fried foods and baked goods.
Drinking soda and fruit juice dramatically increases the likelihood of someone developing coronary artery disease. These sugary drinks contain only sugar and no other nutritional value to your diet which changes how your body metabolizes food. Avoiding sugary beverages is the best way to limit the adverse effects sugary beverages have on your heart.
Avoid high sodium foods which can lead to high blood pressure and heart issues. Avoid buying products like deli meats, breakfast cereals, canned soup and vegetables, various condiments like ketchup, frozen meals, and bread.
Monitor Numbers with Regular Doctor Visits
As a senior, it is very important to maintain regular doctor visits for your heart health and overall health. Talking to your doctor will help you determine what areas of your health you need to improve and what steps should be taken to improve those areas depending on your specific situation. However, a few general numbers to strive for to help keep your heart healthy include:
- Blood pressure- Less than 120/80 mmHG
- Cholesterol- Total less than 200 mg/dL
- Body Mass Index (BMI)- Less than 25 kg/m2
- Waist Circumference- Less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men
Minimize Your Stress Levels
Long term or chronic stress can increase your blood pressure and ultimately lead to heart issues. Trying to minimize stress can also translate into finding new, enriching, and enjoyable activities. Try some of the activities listed below to help manage stress:
- Breathing Exercises
- Starting a New Hobby
- Spending Time with Family and Friends