HEART HEALTHY HABITS FOR SENIORS
Heart disease is a serious threat to the health of older people, in fact, 84% of people aged 65 and over die of heart disease. Although the risk of heart disease increases with age, it doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of aging. Heart-healthy lifestyle habits and diet can help protect you.
What exactly is heart disease? It is the term given to a group of different health conditions that affect the heart. In the United States, the most common form of heart disease is called coronary artery disease (CAD). Coronary artery disease is often responsible for serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, heart failure, chest pain, and irregular heartbeats, also known as arrhythmias.
Although heart disease poses a greater health risk to older people, it does not make it inevitable with age. In fact, a recent study found that no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to improve your health. Many studies establish a link between a healthy lifestyle and a decrease in cardiovascular risk in the elderly.
This is great news because there are lots of things you can do to prevent heart disease. Before you get into solid heart-healthy habits, quickly remember what a heart attack or stroke feels like.
BE AWARE OF SYMPTOMS
First, it helps to know how to spot the signs of heart disease. In the early stages, symptoms of heart disease are non-existent or barely noticeable. This makes annual exams mandatory, allowing the doctor to ask questions and perform tests as needed.
When heart disease progresses to the point of a heart attack or stroke, knowing the signs can save your life. According to the American Heart Association, call emergency services if any of these sign
HEART ATTACK SYMPTOMS:
- Chest discomfort or pain (usually central, lasting more than a few minutes)
- Upper body discomfort (arm, back, neck, jaw, or stomach)
- Shortness of breath (with or without chest discomfort)
- Other signs (such as cold sweats, nausea, or dizziness)
Stroke symptoms (remember FAST):
- Face drooping or numbness on one side
- Weakness or numbness in the arm
- Difficulty speaking
- Time to call the hospital if the person has any of these symptoms
WHAT IS HEART DISEASE?
The terms “heart disease” and “cardiovascular disease” are used interchangeably to describe the various conditions affecting your heart. Heart or cardiovascular disease includes blood vessel disease, heart rhythm problems, and congenital heart defects.
The most common form of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart harden and narrow due to a build-up of cholesterol, called plaque. Coronary artery disease can lead to health problems such as heart attack, heart failure, angina (chest pain), stroke, and irregular heartbeat.
Every year, one in four people die of heart disease. Heart disease can affect anyone, but some people may be more at risk than others. Some of the most common risk factors for heart disease include:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Poor Diet
- Inactive Lifestyle
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption
RECOGNIZING THE SYMPTOMS OF HEART DISEASE
Many people believe that cardiovascular disease (CVD) inevitably occurs with old age. There are many things’ seniors can do to strengthen the heart and circulatory system.
Although there are many forms of heart disease, they share common symptoms and warning signs. It is important to be aware of these symptoms to receive timely diagnosis and medical treatment. Symptoms of an emergency may include:
- Chest pain, discomfort, or unpleasant pressure in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the upper body, arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
- Sensation nausea or vomiting
- Sweating; or cold sweats.
- Weakness, light-headedness, feeling faint or dizzy
- Feeling very full or having indigestion
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- An irregular heartbeat, palpitations, or increased heart rate
HOW TO LOWER YOUR RISK OF HEART DISEASE
Many health problems can contribute to heart disease and increase your risk of having a heart attack. Treating heart disease and preventing heart attacks requires you to address all other contributing health conditions and keep them under control. You should:
- Lower Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
- Control Your Diabetes
- Take Medicine to Treat Angina (Chest Pain)
There are medicines that can help treat various aspects of heart disease. To manage chest pain, nitrates, beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers may be recommended. The doctor may also suggest taking aspirin daily to reduce the risk of heart attack.
Coronary heart disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries and restricts blood flow to the heart. About 366,000 Americans die each year from coronary heart disease.
Plaque build-up can break away from the arterial wall and create blood clots. Depending on the size of the blood clot, it can block blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack. Blood clots are the most common cause of a heart attack.
Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is slowed or blocked. Plaque build-up in the arteries leading to the brain can interfere with blood flow to the brain and increase the risk of stroke.
DEMENTIA / ALZHEIMER’S
Plaque can slow down or block the blood supply to brain cells and prevent the brain from having an adequate blood supply in the long term. This can increase the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. According to The Heart Foundation, an estimated one-third of all dementia cases, including those identified as Alzheimer’s disease can be attributed to blood vessel problems.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
When plaque builds up in the arteries, the inside of the arteries narrows, making it difficult for blood to pass. The heart must work harder to pump blood throughout the body, which increases blood pressure. High blood pressure can eventually lead to other consequences, such as kidney disease, heart failure, or loss of vision.
Now that you know the symptoms, you can take preventative steps to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. Follow these guidelines for a healthy lifestyle –
- Get Active
Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic exercise. One of the easiest ways to achieve this – Walk more. Other aerobic activities include gardening, swimming, and tennis. Activities to increase flexibility improve balance and strengthen muscles twice a week, even better. Running out of ideas? Try gardening (think raking leaves or pushing a lawnmower), bicycling, or yoga. Tip: Schedule exercise on your calendar so it’s easier to stick to a routine. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, or 2025 minutes of activity each day.
- Eat Better
Focus on eating a mostly plant-based diet, with whole fruits and vegetables making up the bulk of the food you eat every day. When eating cereals, choose a variety of whole grains such as barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, and whole wheat. For dairy products (e.g., cheese, milk, yogurt), opt for low-fat and fat-free foods. Eat heart-healthy proteins like fish, skinless poultry, lean meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes.
When adding fats, choose polyunsaturated oils (such as sunflower and safflower oils) and monounsaturated oils (such as olive, peanut, and canola oils) avoid saturated and trans fats like those found in whole milk, butter, tropical oils, and processed foods like cookies, cakes, and crackers. Tip: Limit salty foods, sugary drinks, sweets, and highly processed foods; to drink a lot of water; and watch the portion sizes.
- Lose Weight
Losing extra pounds can lead to several health issues. Learning to move more and eat healthier helps you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Keeping a food diary can help you track what and how much you eat. Exercise gives you an idea of your frequency and level of activity. Tip: Use tools that help you track your activity.
- Cholesterol Control
A fatty substance, cholesterol comes from two sources: foods of animal origin and your body. The “good” cholesterol is HDL (high density lipoprotein) and the “bad” cholesterol is LDL (low density lipoprotein). HDL is good because it helps reduce plaque build-up in the arteries, which is partly caused by LDL sticking to the walls of the arteries. Plaque build-up blocks blood flow, which can lead to heart disease. Ask your doctor for a blood test to measure your cholesterol levels. Tip: Healthy lifestyle choices for controlling cholesterol include healthier eating, exercising, choosing healthy fats, and quitting smoking.
- Leave Smoking
If you smoke, you increase your chances of developing heart disease (and lung cancer). Quitting smoking should top your set of heart-healthy choices. Typically, the longer you light up, the more destruction you do to your system. The good news! Your body commences to repair itself as soon as you stop smoking.
Within one year of kicking the habit of, you’ve cut your risk of cardiovascular system disease by 60 percent! Tip: Generate a plan to leave, whether that means going cold turkey, chopping back gradually, by using a nicotine replacement, or seeking help coming from a health provider.
- Manage Your Blood Pressure
Know your numbers and what they mean. Blood pressure registers two values: systolic (the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats) and diastolic (the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest between beats). It is written as a fraction with the systolic number at the top and the diastolic number at the bottom.
Normal blood pressure is 120 (or less) over 80 (or less) and high blood pressure is 120129 over 80 (or less). Hypertension (also known as hypertension) starts at 130 over 80 (or higher). Tip: Healthy lifestyle choices for managing blood pressure include eating healthier, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and reducing the amount of sodium you eat.
- Reduce Blood Sugar
Your body converts much of the food you eat into glucose (or blood sugar) that you can use for energy. It is therefore important to make wise food choices. But if your blood sugar is too high, it can damage your heart (and other parts of your body) and cause diabetes. Tip: Healthy lifestyle choices to lower blood sugar include eating healthier, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking.
- Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is the key to good health and well-being. It’s an important time to support healthy brain function and maintain overall good health, but not enough Americans are getting the recommended hours of sleep each day. Over time, not getting enough sleep can increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. There are several steps you can take to improve your sleep habits: avoid nicotine and caffeine, go to bed, and wake up at the same time every day, keep your bedroom quiet, cool and dark. If you’re still struggling to get a peaceful night’s sleep, consider these tips.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR RISK OF HEART DISEASE
Your risk depends on many factors, some of which change (being physically active and eating a healthy diet) and some which do not (age, sex, and family history of heart disease). Your risk may be higher if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, are overweight or obese, have prediabetes or diabetes, or are a smoker. Women usually get heart disease about 10 years later than men, but it’s still the leading cause of death for women.
Preeclampsia during pregnancy can also increase your risk. A crucial step in determining your risk is talking to your doctor. Thorough checks and risk assessments are essential. Your doctor can also help you set and achieve heart health goals. Learn about heart disease risk during annual check-ups and discuss prevention and treatment plans.
EAT ON A HEART-HEALTHY DIET
You may have heard of the term “heart-healthy diet” on various morning news or even seen a menu that labels finger foods as “heart-healthy”. What is a heart-healthy diet? Fruits and vegetables, while limiting saturated fats, salt and foods containing cholesterol, such as fatty meats. The worst foods for your heart are red meat, pizza, double cheeseburgers, breaded chicken, and sausages.
If eaten in moderation, you can still enjoy a slice of pizza or a succulent burger. However, if these foods are a regular part of your menu, it might be time to try some healthier options. Instead of a juicy burger, opt for a black bean or turkey burger. Fill the salad before jumping into the pizza box. Consider your portions and fill at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables instead of meat and carbs.