February is American Heart Month, and it’s a great time to learn more about the preventative steps we can all take to protect our heart health. For older adults, living a heart-healthy lifestyle is particularly important. Research shows that the risk of heart disease increases with age, and the majority of people who die from heart disease are 65 or older. Luckily, there are many risk factors for heart disease that can be controlled or reduced, just by making a few simple lifestyle changes. Follow the tips below to show your heart some extra love during American Heart Month and beyond.
Tip #1: Stay active
Research had found that exercising for at least 150 minutes per week can have numerous health benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease. If you’re new to exercise, walking is a good place to start. Walking is one the best exercises for seniors because it is a low-impact activity, yet it still elevates your heart rate. Making short, brisk walks part of your daily routine may help you to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy weight, all of which can reduce your heart disease risk. As always, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
Tip #2: Eat smart
Preventing heart disease is about more than avoiding unhealthy foods; you also need to consume nutrient-rich foods as part of a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends adding more color to your meals in the form of fruit and vegetables, whether they are fresh, frozen, or canned. Fruits and veggies tend to be low in calories but high in fiber, and water, which help you maintain a healthy weight while still satisfying your hunger. Replacing unhealthy processed foods with fruits and vegetables can also help lower the risk of chronic diseases and conditions including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Tip #3: Know your numbers
Heart disease can be preventable when you know your risk factors and how to manage them. This is why it’s important to get regular check-ups to monitor your overall health and find problems early. Ask your health care provider to screen for your critical health numbers, including your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and body mass index. If your numbers are not in a healthy range for you, your health care provider can help you develop a plan to manage and control them. When you know your numbers, you’ll have a better understanding of your health picture and even more motivation to keep up with heart-healthy habits.
Tip #4: Keep stress in check
We all deal with different stressors, no matter our age. But as we grow older, stress can take a greater toll on our minds and bodies. Over time, chronic stress can even lead to an increased risk of senior health challenges including heart disease, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. The key to dealing with stress is finding what works best for you. Ideas for stress-relieving activities include doing calming exercises like Tai Chi or yoga, listening to music, or simply spending time with friends, family, and pets. Finding a healthy outlet for your stress will help you fight its adverse health effects and improve your overall mood.
According to the American Heart Association, your lifestyle is your best defense against the risk of heart disease and stroke. Committing to a heart-healthy way of life doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s never too late (or too early) to start! What healthy lifestyle changes will you make during American Heart Month?