The heart is at the center of your health. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle means understanding your risk for various conditions, making healthy choices, and taking the appropriate steps to reduce the chance of conditions such as heart disease.
When it comes to your personal health care, it’s essential to consult your physician to understand your specific heart risk factors and the best practices to maintain your heart health. But in general, this article is exploring heart-healthy tips for seniors that can help you adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Risks of Poor Heart Health
The heart has several important jobs, including carrying oxygen, hormones, essential cells, and more when it pumps blood throughout the body. However, the heart’s function can be weakened by a lack of exercise, poor diet, infection, smoking, genetics, and more.
Several diseases or complications can be caused by poor heart health, and aging can also cause changes in the blood vessels and heart. For example, as you age, your heart can’t beat as fast as it did when you were younger during times of stress or physical activity. The most common change due to aging is arteriosclerosis, which is when the arteries harden or get stiffer. This causes high blood pressure, which also becomes more common with aging.
Because it’s natural for the body and heart to change as we age, it’s important to understand and take control of the lifestyle choices that have a large impact on your heart.
7 Heart-Healthy Tips for Seniors
Taking care of your heart is something you can work on every day. Some of the most important heart-healthy tips for seniors include:
1. Follow a Healthy Diet
Eat foods that are low-calorie but have a lot of minerals, vitamins, and fiber. A variety of colorful vegetables and fruits are beneficial for your heart. You should aim for at least 1.5 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables daily. When eating cereals and breads, aim for whole-grain options. Whole grain means that more of the natural grain is included and there are more nutrients such as fiber, healthy fats, and vitamin E.
Eating too much salt is also bad for your heart and can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease. For flavorful, healthy meals, focus on including herbs and spices instead of salt.
Replacing high-fat meats with nutritious fish and poultry and choosing low-fat or fat-free dairy products is also essential for following a healthy diet. However, it’s important to make small changes over time rather than all of the changes at the same time. Starting slowly and making small changes over time can be easier to follow and lead to improved health.
Senior living communities such as Cedarhurst Senior Living can help with maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle. Our dining program, Crafted by Cedarhurst℠, offers delicious menu options that prioritize nutrition. We provide a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and more to help you prioritize your health. We even offer a heart-healthy menu!
2. Stop Smoking
Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death. It increases your risk of heart attack and heart disease and can worsen preexisting risk factors for heart disease.
Smoking also damages blood vessels leading to your brain, heart, and other parts of your body, making it four times more likely you’ll have a stroke or heart attack. Once you quit smoking, your risk of heart attack and stroke decreases almost immediately. Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but you can do it with persistence, planning, and help.
3. Increase Your Amount of Regular Physical Activity
Staying active can help you lose excess weight, improve your well-being, and lower the risk of many conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Anything that can get you up and moving is beneficial. For example, gardening, dancing, walking, and yoga are all helpful.
Any amount of physical activity that you can add to your day is better than nothing. It’s important to start small with realistic goals and slowly work your way up to 30–60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. By starting small, you can work at your pace and build endurance. Plus, when you’re doing something you enjoy, you’re more likely to continue doing it and do it more often.
Doing a physical activity with a group of friends or family can help you stay motivated to continue exercising while being social, which adds enjoyment to the activity. For example, senior living communities are designed around health and socialization because both are key to well-being. At many Cedarhurst independent living communities, we have fitness centers, beautiful walking trails, and exercise classes so you can achieve your movement goals while making new friends!
4. Keep Preexisting Conditions Under Control
Keeping conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes under control is key to a heart-healthy lifestyle. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two major risk factors for heart disease. High cholesterol can cause a buildup of plaque in your arteries, which causes the arteries to narrow and reduce the supply of oxygen-rich blood to vital organs.
If you’re on medications for any of these conditions, make sure you’re regularly taking them as prescribed and following your doctor’s instructions. Never stop taking your medications without talking to your doctor first and always ask questions if you don’t understand something.
To help keep these conditions under control, it’s important to exercise and follow a heart-healthy diet and avoid eating too many trans fats or saturated fats (found in foods such as cakes, biscuits, pizza, pastries, and deep-fried foods).
5. Minimize Stress
We all get stressed at times. However, chronically high levels of stress can contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure, and it can even trigger a heart attack. Chronic stress can also affect your immune system, memory, depression, anxiety, and more.
To help minimize stress, it’s important to understand what you can do to manage it. This includes ways to cope with your stress and methods for relaxing to improve your emotional and physical health.
Meditation, yoga, stress management programs, physical activity, and spending time with friends and family are all beneficial ways to manage stress. Senior living communities make this easy by providing plenty of opportunities for socialization and quality time with friends and family as well as fitness centers and classes to help you work through the stress by working out.
6. Understand the Symptoms of Heart Disease
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain while engaging in physical activity
- Headaches and feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or confused
- Pain, tingling, or numb sensations
- Swelling of the neck, feet, stomach, legs, or ankles
- Problems performing your normal activities
- Nausea or vomiting
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your doctor.
7. Drink Plenty of Water and Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
Choose your drinks wisely and replace sugary drinks with water to help reduce calories. If you drink alcohol, make sure you do so in moderation because alcohol contributes to stress and can raise your blood pressure. Limit your consumption to one drink for women or two drinks for men on days that you consume alcohol.
Ready to See How Senior Living Communities Contribute to a Healthy Lifestyle?
Senior living communities are designed with residents and healthy lifestyles as the focus. A large part of this involves providing easy access to perks including healthy meal choices and a variety of options for physical activity.
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