Powerful Ways for Seniors to Improve Heart Health
There are steps we can all take to minimize the risk of heart disease. Learn the symptoms of heart disease and how to change your lifestyle for improved heart health.
Your heart ages right along with you, and as we know from scientific research and our personal experiences, the older you get, the more likely you are to experience heart-related health issues. Heart disease is far and away the most common cause of death among Americans, resulting in one of every four deaths.
But take heart -- there’s good news! In many cases, heart disease is preventable, it can be delayed, and your heart health can often be improved if you take certain steps to alter your diet, physical activity, and reduce your stress levels. There are a number of proven methods and actions you can take to keep your heart healthy, and in the process, improve your overall condition. We’re going to go through several powerful ways for seniors to improve heart health and explore how you can identify risks of heart disease.
Know the Symptoms of Heart Disease (and Seek Help)
People 65 and older are much more likely to have a heart attack, develop coronary heart disease, and experience heart failure. As you get older, your heart doesn’t beat as fast during exercise, and you will often develop arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). More than 80 million American adults have some type of coronary heart disease, the majority of those people over the age of 60, and nearly half of all American adults are affected by some form of cardiovascular disease.
There are several symptoms that may be signs of developing heart disease, according to Mayo Clinic:
- Pain, tightness, or pressure develops in the chest.
- Pain and/or numbness is felt in your arms, legs, throat, and extremities.
- You experience shortness of breath.
- You have a racing or slow heartbeat
- You become dizzy or light headed.
- Your skin turns gray or blue.
- Areas of your body become swollen.
While these symptoms are possible concerns for heart disease, a diagnosis from a medical professional will confirm why you are experiencing them and what steps to take moving forward.
Steps for Seniors to Improve Heart Health
Let’s get to it! Here are some great ways for Seniors to lead a heart-healthy life.
Heart-Healthy Food for Seniors
In order to maintain a healthy diet, it’s better to have four or five smaller meals a day than two-three larger meals. Make sure your intake is low in calories but high in the following elements:
- Fruits and vegetables
Consuming foods that are high in fiber is always a plus. Try to avoid added sugars, trans fats, and high-fat dairy, and limit the amount of meat you consume. The cliché about breakfast being the most important meal of the day is true! Especially as you get older, it’s important to never skip breakfast.
Additionally, consume alcohol in moderation. It’s perfectly fine to have a glass of wine or a single drink per day, such as:
- A single can or bottle of beer.
- A 5-oz. glass of wine.
- A 1.5-oz. drink of distilled spirits.
Heart-Healthy Activities for Seniors
Maintaining an active lifestyle can mean anything from planned and regular exercise, to doing light chores in and around the house, to brisk walking. Almost anything that gets you up and about is of great benefit.
If you’re technically inclined, you can get a smart watch, or an inexpensive but reliable watch with fitness settings, that will automatically keep track of your movement throughout the day. A smart watch can help you stay motivated as you work towards your daily goals, and may even be integrated with other at-home technology. Learn more in our article “Smart Home Devices for Seniors.”
If it’s been a while since you’ve engaged in regular physical activity, it’s always a good idea to speak with a doctor about the best exercise plan for you.
Maintain Healthy Weight for Heart Health
This is something that goes hand-in-hand with everything we’ve discussed to this point. If you maintain a healthy diet, keep your consumption of alcohol in check, and participate in an active lifestyle, you’re well on your way to either losing or gaining weight as needed. Your weight has a huge impact on your health; the heavier you are, the more likely you are to develop a myriad of health issues, from heart disease to breathing issues, higher blood pressure, and even certain types of cancer.
Ways to Keep Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, and Cholesterol Under Control
In addition to dietary and activity choices, several diseases and conditions are often related to heart health, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Here are a few tips to help address common issues.
Watch Those Stress Levels
We all know that being “stressed out” isn’t just a psychological occurrence—we can feel it physically, whether we experience rapid breathing, a feeling of intense discomfort, or even a headache or heart palpitations. Higher stress levels can even trigger a heart episode, and can have a negative effect on memory, sleep patterns, anxiety and depression, especially as we get older.
Eating well and keeping physically fit will go a long way toward alleviating stress, but if you’re up for it, you may try yoga (or chair yoga), meditation, or some other form of “scheduled relaxation.” Anything that helps you to “Keep Calm and Carry On,” as the saying goes, is a good thing.
If certain situations or interactions regularly increase your stress levels, you might want to address the root cause of those issues as well. Speaking to a doctor is always a good option.
Quit! It’s as simple (and we know, as complicated), as that. If you’re a longtime smoker, no doubt you’ve probably tried to quit or cut down through the years, but as you get older, it’s incredibly important for you to stop smoking. Talk with a professional and make a plan to quit today.
Monitor Your Health
As is the case with any medical condition, early diagnosis is almost always better. You should contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms (which could also be signs of heart disease, as we identified earlier):
- Recurring headaches
- Cold sweats
- Chest pain during physical activity
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chronic feelings of being fatigued
- Swelling of ankles, feet, legs, and/or neck
- Lightheadedness, confusion or dizziness
These symptoms can be dangerous in relation to diseases, but also your physical movement at home. Learn more about staying safe by reading our next article, “How to Prevent Falls for Elderly Seniors.”
Get Plenty of Sleep
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of a good night’s sleep. Far too many Americans don’t get the proper quantity OR quality of sleep necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A few steps you can take:
- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the evening.
- Don’t watch TV or eat in bed.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
Exercise can also help you get a better night's sleep.
Discover Senior Living
By taking preventative measures to avoid heart health issues, you or your loved one has an opportunity to see a number of residual benefits to live a better life. But taking on new responsibilities can be daunting and professional assistance can be helpful. Talk with our Referah Family Connection Agents today about senior living options near you. From providing specialized care to a little extra support, moving to a community setting can help you live life to the full. Find a community today!