Luckily, heart disease doesn’t have to be inevitable just because you are an older adult. Managing your health conditions and maintaining healthy habits can keep your ticker healthy and lead to a longer life.
It’s never too early to start — here are 8 steps seniors can take to avoid heart disease.
1. Healthy Diet
The right foods can do wonders for your heart, and eating right can taste great. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts are just some of the heart-healthy options. Don’t know what to cook? The American Heart Association offers an array of heart-healthy recipes. The best part is that eating heart-healthy doesn’t have to be expensive — many of the ingredients are foods you probably already have.
Staying physically active as you age is important for your overall health and vitality, and getting your blood pumping is especially good for your heart. If you are just starting out, slowly work up to 30 minutes a day, five times per week. Be sure to warm up properly to loosen stiff joints and ligaments, prevent injury and ease your heart into your workout routine.
3. Learn the Warning Signs of Heart Attack and Stroke
Did you know that men and women experience these symptoms differently? Find out the warning signs to look for so you can be prepared to seek immediate medical attention if you or a loved one should experience these conditions. In most cases time is of the essence, so the sooner help is notified, the better the chance of saving a life.
4. Manage Health Conditions
Other health conditions such as cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes all have a direct impact on heart health. If you are diagnosed with any of these conditions, make sure to take medicine as directed and follow other doctors’ orders on lifestyle modifications. Keeping cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels in the appropriate ranges for your gender and age is something to discuss with your physician at your next appointment.
5. Ankle-brachial Index Test
At your next doctor’s appointment, discuss with your physician your need to get an ankle-brachial index test, which checks for peripheral artery disease. If you are age 50 or older and have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or are a current or former smoker, you are at a higher risk. The test is a noninvasive way to compare your blood pressure at your ankle with your blood pressure at your arm. A low blood pressure can indicate arterial blockage, causing heart disease.
6. Manage Weight
With the right amount of exercise and a heart-healthy diet, this one might not be too difficult. But it is worth mentioning that the more you weigh, the higher the risk of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, when your weight is in a healthy range, your body can more efficiently circulate blood and more easily manage fluid levels.
7. Stop Smoking
Smoking harms your heart, as the chemicals in tobacco are dangerous for blood cells. The damage to the function of your heart can increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which narrows the arteries and can lead to coronary heart disease. If you are not a smoker, don’t start, and avoid secondhand smoke at all costs. If you are a smoker, quit smoking. This is not an easy thing to do, so start by talking to your doctor for effective methods.
8. Manage Stress
Although retirement can seem like the most relaxing time of your life, aging does present new challenges that can cause stress. Health issues and adjusting to retired life and money contribute to stress in older adults. Long-term stress causes the heart rate to increase and blood pressure to rise, damaging the arteries. This makes it crucial to find coping mechanisms. If you are suffering from stress, there are many great ways to bring those levels down and develop new activities that can help you live a happy, fulfilling life and keep heart disease at bay.
Heart disease doesn’t have to go hand in hand with aging. Many older adults can live healthy lives without the burden of heart disease. The key is a healthy lifestyle, early recognition and working with your physician to reduce your risk.
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