You may know that eating a balanced diet and general exercise can help to improve your cardiovascular health, but seniors aged 65 and older are still more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart disease and other related medical conditions. Regardless, it's important to know what you can do in maintaining and improving your overall heart health.
Whether you have a pre-existing condition or are looking to maintain a healthy heart, there are plenty of ways you can help improve heart health. Here are a few general suggestions that almost everyone can implement in their daily routines.
You're probably aware of this, but maybe you're worried about missing out on all your favorite foods. That's a reasonable concern, as you shouldn't have to sacrifice good-tasting food just to stay healthy. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious heart-conscious foods and recipes — and the staff at Autumn View Gardens in Ellisville, MO, work hard to ensure residents have tasty and healthy meals and snacks to enjoy.
Some heart-healthy foods to consider adding to your diet include:
• Leafy greens, which are rich in vitamin K
• Whole grain bread and pasta, which can help reduce "bad" cholesterol and are rich in fiber
• Avocados, a healthy fat alternative
• Dark chocolate, a great option for those with a sweet tooth, though this one should be consumed in moderation
Although establishing a healthy diet is important in maintaining your heart, it's better if you also incorporate an exercise routine alongside it. No matter your fitness level, completing some level of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can drastically improve your overall heart health.
Aerobic exercises are great for increasing circulation and lowering blood pressure. The Autumn View Gardens assisted living community offers residents plenty of opportunities to engage in fitness. Whether you choose to take a brisk walk around community grounds or participate in onsite exercise programs, be sure to engage in daily exercise.
Some seniors eschew exercise because they have limited mobility. This might make it more challenging to engage in some physical activities, but it doesn't mean you can't participate. Pool activities, such as aqua jogging, are low-impact alternatives for those that suffer from conditions like arthritis. Seniors can also take part in chair yoga or exercises. Talk to your caregiver about your options for physical activity if you have limited mobility or are concerned about exercise's impact on your health.
Although a glass of wine at dinner isn't an issue for many, it's best to avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol if you're looking to improve heart health. Research supports a link between smoking and heart failure, so it's often recommended that seniors cut down their use or quit smoking altogether, as it can increase heart rate and constrict major arteries. This can lead to blood clotting and abnormal heartbeat for those who smoke regularly.
Alcohol can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Although it may increase the amount of "good" cholesterol in your blood, excessive drinking can lead to a weakened heart and an irregular heartbeat.
With smoking and drinking, a good rule of thumb is to remember that it's often okay in moderation (as long as your doctor has signed off — especially if you have a chronic condition). A celebratory cigar during a special occasion or a glass of wine for Friday night dinner may be fine.
Wearing a tracking device around your assisted living apartment and when you move through the community can be helpful to monitoring existing heart conditions or general heart health. Some of these devices can be worn on your wrist and are easy to use. Fitness watch brands Garmin and Fitbit both offer a great selection of watches that can help you monitor your heart rate throughout the day, for example. You can also find off-label options that connect to fitness or wellness apps you can download on a smartphone or tablet. If you have questions about whether one of these devices might be right for you, talk to your health care provider or reach out to the staff at the assisted living community.
Many seniors do experience heart-related health issues. In the United States, over 14% of those 45 years old and older have coronary heart disease. Although it isn't uncommon to develop these conditions with age, knowing what to look out for can make a difference to your health and safety. Although it may be uncomfortable, talk to your caregiver and research your medical condition. Understanding your heart condition helps you better maintain your health and know how to act when complications arise. If you have any ongoing issues regarding your heart, considering consulting a medical professional who specializes in cardiovascular health.
Bethesda Foundaion is not associated with the Bethesda Health Group of St. Louis, MO.