30 Apr 13 Heart Health Tips for Seniors
For Older Adults, Keeping Your Heart Healthy Can Protect Against Cardiovascular Disease
The heart beats around 100,000 times per day, or 36 million times in a year. That’s 2.5 billion times in an average lifetime! Therefore, it’s wise to take care of your heart that never takes a break. Importantly, heart health is crucial for seniors because age brings natural changes to the body’s organs and their ability to function well, ranging from the heart to blood vessels.
Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Amazingly, it is singularly responsible for 1 out of every 4 deaths in America.
Take Action For Heart Health
Below we list 13 of the best things you can do to help keep your heart healthy and running strong. It is unlikely that you could institute all of the suggestions listed here. That’s ok, as even small steps can have an outsized impact on your heart health.
Eat your produce
Be sure to consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based food such as beans, legumes, and whole grains. These types of foods are rich with nutrients and fiber. Diets rich with fiber can help lower the risk of heart disease. It can also help keep weight gain at bay by making you feel full for a longer period of time.
A simple tip is to introduce variety by consuming different colors of the rainbow. This can provide different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Pick whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and wheat bread and opposed to their more processed alternatives. When incorporating healthy veggies into your diet, read about some of the produce you may want to buy organic and some you can skip.
Incorporate regular activity and exercise into your routine
Being active is critical for seniors to improve or maintain their heart health. You probably won’t be running a marathon anytime soon, and that’s no problem. Simply walking regularly can boost your body’s heart health. You can start small if that is helpful. For example, you could begin by walking for 15 minutes at a time, 3 times each week as a starter for several weeks. Next, attempt to increase your time to 30 minutes of activity for a period of 3 times per week. Subsequently try to increase the duration and frequency of your walks.
Alternatively, you can incorporate more intensive activities like running or bicycling. You can boost your activity if you find what you are doing to be enjoyable. Some additional ways to increase your activity that are fun include water aerobics or also participating in active hobbies that you find pleasure in.
Monitor your body’s metrics
If you don’t know what your body’s baseline is, you are flying blind when it comes to actively controlling and improving your body’s heart health. Stick to regular check-ups and get tested to monitor health conditions that affect the heart. These include things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. They can be under control with medication, so be sure you are on them should a doctor recommend it. Your doctor will also make sure you get checked regularly for things like cholesterol and blood pressure. Blood pressure can also regularly and easily be checked at home with an inexpensive monitor.
Avoid processed foods
Processed and packaged foods tend to be relatively low in nutrients plus high in calories, sodium, bad fats, and added sugars. These can be harmful in several ways: an excess of calories can cause weight gain, unhealthy fats can raise bad cholesterol, and sodium can raise blood pressure. A diet promoting heart health will minimize foods with added sugars. Therefore, you can focus on more nutrient-rich sources of food.
Pick the right proteins
A heart promoting diet will include lean protein sources. These include beans, seafood, eggs, and lean types of poultry. Strive to consume fish that’s rich with omega-3 fatty acids twice a week or more. Examples include tuna, salmon, herring, or trout. Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven in multiple studies to offer heart health benefits, among others.
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Steer clear of excess sodium
Adults should limit their sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. If you can limit your sodium intake even further (like targeting 1,500 mg per day), you may be able to reduce blood pressure more. To effectively limit your salt consumption, start by avoiding processed foods. This is actually where people get most of their salt intake. Also, try to use less salt to flavor home cooked foods and dine out less. When you eat out, not only do you have less control over how much sodium you are consuming, but these foods also tend to have a high sodium content anyways.
Pick fats carefully
Saturated fats are found in animal sources, including fatty cuts of meat and whole-milk dairy products. They’re also found in some tropical oils, including coconut oil. Trans fats are another source of bad fats. You can find them in some processed foods that have partially hydrogenated oils. Examples include some baked goods and fried food, among others. When in doubt, nutrition labels now all list trans fat content. Unhealthy fats like these include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. You can find these in many nuts and seeds, olive and canola oils, fatty types of fish, and avocados. Healthy fat can even lower bad cholesterol levels while decreasing your risk of heart disease.
Keep portion size in check
Be mindful of portion sizes to effectively help you maintain a healthy weight. By losing weight or sustaining your current healthy weight, your risk for heart disease also is kept in check. Normally, packaged foods have multiple portions per serving. Therefore, it’s important to read nutrition labels closely. There are also small ways that you can moderate your portion sizes that don’t require much effort. For example, eating meals from a small salad plate instead of a large dinner plate can help you cut down on portion size without you hardly realizing it. When eating at restaurants, try sharing entrees or packing half to go can also aid in managing calorie counts. As an added bonus, you effectively get a second meal to eat later. Alternatively, seniors can find themselves in a state of malnutrition surprisingly often. Read about the 14 signs of senior malnutrition.
Incorporating a regular routine of meditation and mindfulness could protect seniors from heart disease. Preliminary studies suggest that meditation could aid in lowering blood pressure, help stop smoking, and reduce mortality risk from heart disease. Studies have also connected meditation to healthier arteries and better flow of blood to the heart.
Drink lots of water
Seniors are a dehydration risk more often than the general population. This is caused partly by decreased thirst sensations as we get older. Be mindful of this fact and consume plenty of water. Staying well hydrated can keep your body running on all cylinders and helps prevent your heart from working too hard, thereby increasing cardiovascular risk. Unsure if you’re meeting your body’s hydration needs? Start by paying attention to your urine’s color in the bathroom. When it’s relatively clear or pale on most occasions, you’re likely sufficiently hydrated. If it’s consistently a darker yellow color, try drinking more fluids. Remember, you don’t have to limit yourself to just water. Many drinks help hydrate your body. Avoid drinks that are alcoholic and with high levels of caffeine as they can be dehydrating. Also, limit drinks high in sugar.
Monitor your alcohol consumption
Drinking alcohol regularly can raise your blood pressure and your level of triglycerides. In addition, alcoholic beverages contribute to unnecessary calories in your diet. If you decide to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Red wine can be a good choice if you do drink, as it contains powerful antioxidants and resveratrol, which has shown health benefits (in moderation). Men should limit themselves to two drinks per day or less, and women one drink or less.
Consider your mental state
Heart disease is not limited to just what you consume or by activity levels. Mental health contributors can impact cardiovascular health in surprising ways. Emotional factors, such as depression, loneliness, and stress have also been connected to poor heart health. Unfortunately, many seniors are at greater risk of social isolation, loneliness, and other mental health conditions. Seniors can avoid the emotional factors that contribute to heart disease by reaching out for company and when they need it.
Simple as that. Stop smoking to not only improve your heart health but also other health measures. Talk to your doctor if you need assistance to stop smoking.
Further Senior Resources
When older adults find life’s everyday tasks a little more challenging, bringing in a home caregiver can be a big help. Caregivers can also help seniors who feel lonely through participating in various activities of interest to the senior or those who want to get out and about safely. When a caregiver isn’t right for a senior, lean on family members, friends, and other engaging activities that can be good resources for mental and physical health.
Chosen Family Home Care is a supportive home care provider for seniors and their loved ones. Through our comprehensive needs assessment and our mission-driven approach, we can determine the best course of action for your loved one, while considering your budget and the individual requirements that seniors need.