American Heart Month: Essential Heart Health Tips for Seniors
February marks the observance of American Heart Month. It's an important reminder to keep our focus on heart health and how individuals can best maintain their cardiovascular well-being. An alarming statistic - 2,200 Americans succumb to heart disease each day, making it the number one cause of death in our country. Thankfully, knowledge and proactive behavior can go a long way in preventing 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases.
For seniors, in particular, understanding the importance of heart health is key to living a longer, healthier life as they age. And with some simple lifestyle changes, seniors may be able to reduce their risk of developing heart disease - or limit its effects if they're already at risk or being treated for cardio issues.
Read on to learn more about some simple tips for maintaining good heart health during American Heart Month that any senior can follow easily.
Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is one of the most important steps to keep your heart in top condition as you age. It's important to eat foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium which can help reduce seniors' overall risk of developing or worsening heart-related issues. Incorporate plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into meals and snacks throughout the day while avoiding processed foods and sugary treats. Fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, and tuna, can also help ensure a balanced diet that promotes good cardiovascular health.
Seniors need to make an effort to exercise regularly. They can stay active by incorporating physical activity into day-to-day life. Exercise can mean anything from going for a walk or playing golf with friends to swimming laps or participating in water aerobics or yoga classes at the local gym.
Aiming for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week is a great goal. Although, any amount that increases your heart rate and gets you moving is beneficial! Other forms of exercise, such as strength training and stretching, should also be included in the routine.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
High blood pressure and cholesterol levels are two of the most common risk factors for developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke. Monitor their levels regularly so any changes can be identified immediately and addressed with effective treatment.
Ask your doctor if they recommend regular screenings, and ensure you understand what numbers you should look for. If your readings are higher than ideal, work with your doctor to develop a plan of action. This can include changes to diet, exercise routine, or medications - to get them back on track.
Quit Smoking and Avoid Secondhand Smoke
Smoking is one of the most damaging habits when it comes to heart health. Seniors who smoke should take steps to quit as soon as possible. This, in turn, can help reduce their risk of developing serious problems such as stroke and heart attack. Additionally, seniors should avoid secondhand smoke, which can harm their hearts. Research has shown that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of heart-related diseases. Seniors should try their best to stay away from others who are smoking or in areas where smoking is allowed.
In addition to quitting or avoiding tobacco altogether, seniors may also want to steer clear of vaping products which contain nicotine. The long-term effects of vaping on cardiovascular health have yet to be studied. However, there is concern that they may be similar to those of smoking.
Cut Down on Stress
Stress can take a severe toll on heart health, physically and emotionally. Long-term or chronic stress can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular issues. So seniors need to make an effort to reduce their stress levels. Relaxation techniques such as slow, deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation can help seniors manage their anxiety. Other calming activities such as yoga, tai chi, guided imagery, listening to music, journaling, or spending time in nature are also great options for those seeking stress relief. Seniors should also ensure they get adequate restful sleep each night. Research suggests that 7-9 hours per night is ideal for cardiovascular health.
Get Regular Checkups
Regular medical checkups are essential to staying healthy - and even more so for seniors. Going to the doctor regularly enables seniors to keep track of any health issues they may be dealing with. It can also help spot any warning signs before they become serious. During these visits, doctors can assess blood pressure and cholesterol levels and screen for certain conditions, such as diabetes or high blood sugar, which can increase the risk of heart-related complications.
They may also suggest lifestyle modifications such as, dietary changes, quitting smoking, or reducing alcohol intake to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular checkups also allow seniors to ask questions or voice any concerns about their heart health. This way, they can make any necessary changes to improve it.
Practice These Tips to Ensure Heart Health
American Heart Month provides anopportunity to focus on maintaining our hearts and taking the necessary steps to keep them healthy, especially as we age. This month is incredibly important since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. We need to do what we can to take care of our health.
By staying on top of their medical care, seniors can ensure that they are taking good care of themselves - and protecting their hearts for years to come.
A home healthcare provider, such as Elite Home Health Care, can be invaluable when providing experienced caregivers that can help your loved one live a healthier and more enjoyable life in the comfort of their home. Our caregivers are dedicated to creating an environment of independence, vitality, and well-being. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you!
Written by: Leah Ganz
Director of Patient Services
Leah Ganz, RN, BSN is the Director of Patient Services at Elite Home Health Care. She has an extensive background in homecare and previously worked in various specialties including pediatrics, pain managemnet and internal medicine. She oversees allpatient services across Elite's departments.