Your health is one thing you should never take for granted. Looking after your health even as a senior may require more hands-on attention, but if it means extending your life for years to come, then you should put in all the effort that you can. Cardiovascular health is particularly important as your heart is responsible for pumping blood to the rest of your body.
Individuals who are aged 65 and above are more susceptible to suffering from heart-related issues. These include strokes, heart attacks, heart disease, and heart failure. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but the good news is, there are a number of things you can do to mitigate symptoms and diagnoses from worsening.
How to Build Heart Health as a Senior
It may take a bit of commitment, but if you put in the work, you can build your heart health no matter what age you are. Applying a combination of these tips to your own life can impact your well-being in the best possible way. Don’t wait before it’s too late—you can start building your heart health today.
Here are some scientifically proven ways to build your heart health as a senior:
Making the right food choices can do wonders for your heart health. While it is okay to indulge every once in a while, sticking to a heart-healthy diet regularly is one of the best things you can do for yourself. You may even notice a big difference in your mood when you stick to a well-balanced diet.
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Nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans, peanuts, and walnuts are some of the best proteins you should be eating to improve your heart health. Legumes, including lentils, beans, and peas, are other extremely healthy protein sources.
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale are packed with fiber, which reduces the risk of heart disease and lowers cholesterol levels.
Whole grains like oats and barley are really good for your heart health as they can help lower your cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
Older adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, five times a week. Regular exercise makes your heart stronger, improves circulation, decreases your triglyceride levels, and also helps you lower your blood pressure. Just remember to always warm up before and cool down afterward.
Brisk walking is ideal for seniors as it gets their muscles warmed up while also raising their heart rate. It also helps improve posture, without putting too much strain on your joints.
Stationary cycling is another great aerobic exercise that is not harsh on the joints, distributes the flow of blood and oxygen in the body, and lowers blood pressure.
Swimming is a low-impact exercise that strengthens the heart, enhances circulation, lowers blood pressure, and decreases the risk of heart disease.
Stress, when not managed properly, can be extremely harmful to your heart. While it may raise your blood pressure, many people turn to vices as outlets for their stress. A lot of people who are diagnosed with depression have a hard time managing their stress as well. This can exacerbate heart disease, so you should also seek professional help if needed.
Never put off seeing a doctor regularly. If you see a cardiologist, you should get your heart and cholesterol checked every four to six years. However, if you are at risk for heart disease or if it runs in your family, then you should likely get your cholesterol checked more often than this. Seeing your doctor regularly can help you detect any heart irregularities before they worsen.
Alcohol, especially in excessive amounts, can elevate your blood pressure. Those with pre-existing health conditions or heart problems should not drink too much. Individuals with heart disease may experience having their conditions and symptoms worsen if they are heavy drinkers. You should also avoid alcohol if you are on medication, especially blood thinners.
Smoking tobacco—or even inhaling it as secondhand smoke—is extremely bad for your heart health as it can damage your artery walls. Smoking actually increases the risk of having a heart attack and developing heart disease—even more so for women. Avoid smoking or quit it completely as it lowers oxygen levels in the heart, elevates blood pressure, and heart rate.
There is an increasing amount of research that illustrates how sleep deprivation can lead to adverse effects on one’s heart health. When you are able to have a good night’s sleep, your blood pressure drops by around 10-20%—and this is known as nocturnal dipping. When your blood pressure increases at night, this is known to be linked to hypertension.
After consulting doctors, you may have been prescribed different heart medications, whether for blood clots, cholesterol, or to regulate your heart rhythms. Make sure that you are religious about taking your medication, and maybe put these into pillboxes for easy tracking. Take note of any adverse side effects and possible contraindications with other medications as well.
When you stay hydrated, your heart does not need to work double-time. Instead, it has an easier time pumping blood—roughly 2,000 gallons a day. Dehydration is common in the elderly, therefore it’s important to be conscious about your water intake. As a rule of thumb, you’re supposed to have a cup of water for every 20 lbs of your weight.
Spending time outdoors has been scientifically proven to improve your overall well-being. It can lower both your heart rate and blood pressure, while also boosting your mood. You can also do some of your exercises outdoors, but even just going for a walk at your local park can significantly change your outlook, demeanor, and health in the best possible way.
Aerobic exercise or cardio is one of the best types of exercise for your heart as it helps strengthen this muscle and facilitate the pumping of blood. Repetitive contractions that are done during a cardio workout can aid in oxygen flow, blood circulation, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. You can achieve this through walking, running, swimming, and cycling.
Unhealthy food should be taken in moderation, but if there is anything you should consciously avoid as much as possible, it should be: cured and processed meats like cold cuts, sausages, and canned goods; deep-fried food because trans fat increases cholesterol levels; and refined carbs like sodas, desserts, and white grains that have pretty much no nutrients.
There are different tests for the heart for different purposes. The best tests are an electrocardiogram (ECG) and Holter monitoring that identify abnormalities in heart rhythms, a stress test for heart response, cardiac CT scan and cardiac MRI for heart imagery, cardiac catheterization for blood flow, and an echocardiogram for the heartbeat.
The age that arteries start to clog will differ for men and women. For women, arteries usually clog after they turn 55. For men, plaque buildup increases when they turn 45. This buildup of plaque, also called atherosclerosis, is dangerous as it can potentially block your arteries and inhibit blood flow to your limbs and heart.
A good heart rate for seniors aged 65 and up is 78 to 132 beats per minute (bpm). You can measure your heart rate by checking your pulse. Count how many beats there are in fifteen seconds, and then multiply this figure by four to determine the number of beats per minute.
A well-functioning heart can do wonders for your holistic health. A lot of the care that goes into maintaining a healthy heart has to do with practicing good habits. Although some bad habits may be harder to get rid of, enacting gradual changes can make all the difference. If you want to learn more about staying healthy in your senior years, check out the rest of Senior Strong’s resources today!