Eight Heart Healthy Lifestyle Tips for Seniors
February is the month of red hearts, valentines, roses and love – meaning it’s the perfect month to show your heart some love. American Heart Month – which is also celebrated in February – is the perfect time for seniors to ramp up heart-healthy habits to ensure optimal health for the rest of the year and beyond.
“According to the National Institute on Aging, seniors age 65 and older are much more likely than younger people to suffer a heart attack, have a stroke, or develop heart disease or failure,” says Rebecca Carrington, Community Relations Director at Artisan at Hudson. “However, by living a healthy lifestyle, you can decrease your risk of cardiovascular issues significantly.”
Fortunately, living a heart-healthy lifestyle isn’t difficult – in fact, a lot of it is just common sense, says Beth. “Most of us already know what we should be doing to live a healthy life, like eating well, getting exercise and getting enough sleep,” she says. “By doing these things, you won’t just be practicing heart-healthy tips, but promoting full-body wellness which will help you feel well and age well.”
Ready to strengthen your heart and fall in love with what it can do? Here are some top healthy living tips from the American Heart Association (AHA).
- Move more, sit less. Most of us spend too much time sitting, and that’s only gotten worse during COVID-19. The AHA suggests getting at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, but you don’t have to sweat it out on the treadmill if you don’t want to. Exercise comes in all shapes and forms, so find something that works for you and that you enjoy. That way, you’ll be more inclined to continue it and see it as enjoyable instead of a chore. One great way to get more movement in your day: take a walk. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for seniors, as it’s low impact, easy to do and can be done at any time of the day. Don’t forget that yardwork, cleaning house and other chores can be exercise, too.
- Eat a healthy diet. As Michael Pollan once famously said, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” This is a good guideline for eating better and getting your body the nutrients it needs. Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, lean proteins and low-fat dairy. Some heart-healthy foods to add into your diet include fish, unsaturated fats (like olive oil), nuts, beans and barley. Limit or avoid processed foods, sugary drinks or anything with lots of salt. Be sure to drink plenty of water as well.
- Shed some pounds. Carrying extra weight can lead to a slew of health issues. If you’re eating well and getting enough exercise, that may be enough to help you lose weight and maintain it. If you’re having difficulty, consider tracking your activity and keeping a food journal to see if there are any unconscious habits that are sabotaging your weight loss. If you still find that the fat stubbornly refuses to move even though you’re doing everything you’re supposed to, ask your doctor for suggestions.
- Curb cholesterol levels. There are two different types of cholesterol – “good” and “bad.” The “bad,” low-density lipoprotein (LDL), sticks to your artery walls and builds up as plaque. The “good,” high-density lipoprotein (HDL), helps reduce that plaque buildup. The goal is to keep your “bad” cholesterol levels down and your “good” cholesterol levels up. Ways to control your levels include exercising, eating well and quitting smoking.
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure. High blood pressure, which is caused by a variety of reasons (including but not limited to poor diet, lack of exercise and stress), can significantly increase our risk of heart issues. “Normal” blood pressure is generally considered to be 120 over 80, while elevated blood pressure or hypertension starts at 130 over 80.
- Quit smoking.If you don’t smoke, excellent – you already have a great start at a heart-healthy lifestyle. However, if you do smoke, you can start reaping benefits by quitting today. The longer you smoke, the more you damage your body and increase your risk of cardiovascular issues, cancers and other health risks. As soon as you quit, though, your body starts healing itself. In just one year after quitting smoking, your heart disease risk will be cut in half. Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking if you feel you need assistance.
- Practice self-care. Over the past few decades, science and medicine are increasingly purporting the way that our mind and emotions affect our physical health. Being stressed, anxious, depressed or agitated can actually spell problems for your heart due to rising cortisol levels and unhealthy habits. It’s important to manage your stress and practice mental well-being every day. Even just five minutes of practicing gratitude or meditating can reduce your stress levels, clear your mind and leave you feeling better – mentally, emotionally and physically. Be sure to also do something you enjoy at least once a day, whether that’s spending half an hour reading a book, calling a friend or watching a favorite TV show.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Getting enough sleep doesn’t just leave you feeling rested. It also affects your mood, habits, stress levels and overall health. Be sure that you’re getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep a night. One of the best ways to ensure this is by practicing good sleep hygiene. Be sure your bedroom is at a comfortable level (not too hot), it’s dark and quiet and free of distractions. Tablets, computers and televisions can disrupt sleep, so be sure to turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime. Put together a routine that you can follow every night to prep your body for sleep, whether it’s taking a shower, drinking a warm cup of tea or writing in your journal.