Heart disease is one of the most common health problems people face in the United States and worldwide. It’s an especially significant risk for seniors — according to Kaiser, about 80% of people who die of coronary heart disease are over the age of 65. In the face of this statistic, it’s incredibly important for older adults and their family members and caregivers to be aware of the best heart-healthy habits for seniors.
Why does heart disease become more common as people get older? There are several reasons. Exercise becomes more difficult for many people as they age. For instance, seniors may get injured more easily or have less energy than when they were younger. Cooking fresh and heart-healthy meals may also become more difficult. Chronic stress and lifestyle factors such as smoking can also contribute to heart problems in seniors.
Fortunately, heart disease isn’t an inevitable side effect of aging. While genetic factors can contribute to a person’s risk, controllable lifestyle factors play a much bigger role. And it’s never too late to make a change — for example, even people who have smoked or been sedentary all their lives can improve their health by adopting a few simple habits.
7 Heart Health Tips for seniors
These heart health tips for seniors will help anybody, no matter how old or young, improve — and maintain — their heart health.
Get Moving Regularly
There’s, unfortunately, no miracle prescription for good health, but exercise comes pretty close. Exercise is, by far, one of the best things seniors can do to maintain good health. Working out is good for mood health, brain health, and, of course, heart health. And there’s no need to spend hours at the gym, either. To begin with, even moderate exercise can dramatically cut heart disease risk for seniors who aren’t in top physical shape.
There’s no wrong way to exercise. The most important thing is merely moving, whether that means taking a walk every day, playing tennis with a friend, or visiting the weight room at the gym. Seniors who aren’t in the habit of exercising daily can start by picking an activity they enjoy. Most seniors can reduce their heart disease risk by exercising for half an hour a day, five days a week. Of course, this will depend on each senior’s current level of fitness and mobility as well. It’s always a good idea to check with a doctor before beginning any new workout plan.
Shop Smart at the Grocery Store
Diet plays a big role in heart health. Seniors can reduce their risk of developing heart disease by making informed choices at the grocery store. Home caregivers who help with shopping and cooking can also help their clients stay healthy by purchasing and preparing nutritious foods. As a general rule, a heart-healthy diet is fresh and minimally processed.
It’s essential for seniors to eat enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. Processed, packaged foods might be convenient, but they’re often full of sugar, refined flour, and trans fats, all of which are bad news for heart health. A good rule of thumb is to shop around the grocery store’s perimeter, where the fresher foods are located, and avoid the inner aisles.
It’s never too late to quit smoking. And smoking is incredibly damaging to heart health so that the sooner seniors can kick the habit, the better. Breaking a deeply ingrained habit isn’t easy, but products like patches and gum can help. Attending support groups, or merely talking to non-smoking family members, friends, and caregivers, can also help seniors stay healthy and leave cigarettes behind for good.
See a Doctor Regularly
People are at increased risk of health problems as they get older, so seniors need to schedule regular checkups with their doctor. Often, a doctor’s visit can catch a developing health problem, such as high blood pressure, while still early enough to turn things around.
Meditation might be wildly popular among the younger set, but it’s an ancient practice that everybody can benefit from. That’s because meditation is an effective way to control stress, which is a significant contributor to heart disease. Meditation is also simple — it doesn’t require any special equipment, and anyone can learn to do it. Guided meditations are often helpful for beginners.
Avoid Consuming too Much Alcohol
Drinking a small amount of alcohol on special occasions won’t necessarily have a negative impact on heart health. However, drinking alcohol daily or drinking excessively can cause high blood pressure and a host of other health problems. Seniors who drink alcohol should be careful to keep their intake moderate. Seniors who don’t drink at all should avoid starting.
Reach Out For Support
Physical lifestyle factors don’t just cause heart disease. Emotional factors, such as loneliness, stress, and depression, have also been linked to poor heart health. Seniors can avoid the personal factors contributing to heart disease by reaching out for support and company when they need it. For seniors who find life’s everyday tasks a little complicated, hiring a home caregiver can be a big help.
A home caregiver can also help seniors who are feeling lonely or want to get out of the house more. And whether a senior is ready to hire a caregiver or not, family members and friends can also be useful for both practical and emotional support.
Fit Fitness into Your Day
We all know that there are many benefits to exercising. From increased energy levels to decreased risk of chronic disease, exercising helps with weight loss, improves moods, and even helps maintain a healthy brain. More importantly, a consistent exercise regime is vital for maintaining a healthy heart as seniors age. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to improve overall cardiovascular health. If you’re a senior and don’t know where to start, start by having a conversation with your doctor to determine what exercise routine is best for you.
In order to remain consistent in achieving your exercise goals, find an accountability partner. Sign up for a senior fitness class at your local senior center or arrange to meet a friend for a walk around the neighborhood. For more tech-savvy seniors, consider downloading an app or wearing a fitness monitor to track your movement throughout the day. Many apps and fitness monitors alert you when you have been sedentary for too long so that you can get up and walk around the house for a few minutes.
Much on a Heart-Healthy Diet
You may have heard the term “heart-healthy diet” thrown about on various morning news shows or even seen a menu that labels “heart-healthy” entrees. But what exactly is a heart-healthy diet? A heart-healthy diet consists of mainly fresh fruits and vegetables while limiting saturated fats, salt, and foods containing cholesterol, like fatty meats. The worst foods for your heart include red meat, pizza, double cheeseburgers, breaded chicken, and sausage. When eaten in moderation, you can still enjoy a slice of pizza or a juicy hamburger. But, if these foods are a regular part of your menu, it may be time to try some healthier options. Instead of a juicy hamburger, opt for a black-bean or turkey burger. Fill up on salad before diving into the pizza box. Consider your portion sizes and fill at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables instead of meat and carbohydrates.
Learn to Manage Stress
Stress can compound many heart disease risks that seniors already face, steering them towards an unhealthy lifestyle. For some seniors, stress results in binge eating junk food and while sitting in front of the television for most of the day. For others, stress may lead them to withdraw from social engagements, leaving them feeling isolated or ignored.
The leading causes of stress seniors include financial hardship, physical decline, health cost, neglect or abuse from caregivers, and the death of close friends and family. No matter what stage of life, stress is unavoidable. However, finding ways to reduce stress or cope with the hardships you face reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
There are many coping strategies to help seniors manage stress, such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, drinking a calming tea, or engaging in a hobby. Simply talking about what’s causing your stress and working through a stressful situation can also reduce the stress you are facing. Whether you want to add fitness into your daily routine, need to make dietary changes, or want to learn healthy coping strategies to help you manage stress,