Heart disease is one of the most common health problems people face in the United States and around the world. It's an especially big risk for seniors — according to Kaiser, about 80% of people who die of coronary heart disease are over the age of 65. In the face of this statistic, it's incredibly important for older adults, as well as their family members and caregivers, to be aware of the best heart healthy habits for seniors.
Why does heart disease become more common as people get older? There are a number of reasons. Exercise becomes more difficult for many people as they age. For instance, seniors may get injured more easily or have less energy than they did when they were younger. Cooking fresh, heart healthy meals may also become more difficult. Chronic stress and lifestyle factors such as smoking can also contribute to heart problems in seniors.
Fortunately, heart disease isn't an inevitable side effect of aging. While genetic factors can contribute to a person's risk, controllable lifestyle factors play a much bigger role. And it's never too late to make a change — for example, even people who have smoked or been sedentary all their lives can improve their health by adopting a few simple habits.
7 Heart Health Tips for Seniors
These heart health tips for seniors will help anybody, no matter how old or young, improve — and maintain — their heart health.
1. Get moving on a regular basis.
There's unfortunately no miracle prescription for good health, but exercise comes pretty close. Exercise is, by far, one of the best things seniors can do to maintain good health. Working out is good for mood health, brain health, and, of course, heart health. And there's no need to spend hours at the gym, either. For seniors who aren't in top physical shape to begin with, even moderate exercise can cut heart disease risk dramatically.
There's no wrong way to exercise. The most important thing is simply to get moving, whether that means taking a walk every day, playing tennis with a friend, or visiting the weight room at the gym. Seniors who aren't in the habit of exercising daily can start by picking an activity they enjoy. It's important to start slowly as well — trying to do too much, too quickly, can lead to injuries or burnout. Starting with a gentle workout and gradually increasing the intensity is a smart strategy for everybody, regardless of age.
Most seniors can reduce their heart disease risk by exercising for half an hour a day, five days a week. Of course, this will depend on each senior's current level of fitness and mobility as well. It's always a good idea to check with a doctor before beginning any new workout plan.
For seniors who have mobility issues, the support of a home caregiver can be a tremendous help. A home caregiver can assist with mobility, arrange transport to exercise facilities, research exercise options for seniors in their neighborhood, and conduct range of motion exercises.
2. Shop smart at the grocery store.
Diet plays a big role in heart health. Seniors can reduce their risk of developing heart disease by making informed choices at the grocery store. Home caregivers who help with shopping and cooking can also help their clients stay healthy by purchasing and preparing nutritious foods.
As a general rule, a heart-healthy diet is fresh and minimally processed. It's important for seniors to eat enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. Processed, packaged foods might be convenient, but they're often full of sugar, refined flour, and trans fats, all of which are bad news for heart health. A good rule of thumb is to shop around the perimeter of the grocery store, where the fresher foods are located, and avoid the inner aisles.
Seniors should always check with their physician before making radical changes to their diet. It’s also a good idea to inquire about which foods may interact with medications and cause side effects.
3. Quit smoking.
It's never too late to quit smoking. And smoking is incredibly damaging to heart health, so the sooner seniors can kick the habit, the better. Breaking a deeply-ingrained habit isn't easy, but there are products like patches and gum that can help. Attending support groups, or simply talking to non-smoking family members, friends, and caregivers, can also help seniors stay strong and leave cigarettes behind for good.
4. See a doctor regularly.
People are at increased risk for health problems as they get older, so it's very important for seniors to schedule regular checkups with their doctor. Oftentimes, a doctor's visit can catch a developing health problem, such as high blood pressure, while it's still early enough to turn things around.
Meditation might be especially popular among the younger set, but it's actually an ancient practice that everybody can benefit from. That's because meditation is an effective way to control stress, which is a big contributor to heart disease. Meditation is also simple — it doesn't require any special equipment, and anyone can learn to do it. Guided meditations are often helpful for beginners.
6. Avoid consuming too much alcohol.
Drinking a small amount of alcohol on special occasions won't necessarily have a negative impact on heart health. However, drinking alcohol on a daily basis or drinking excessively can cause high blood pressure, along with a host of other health problems. Seniors who drink alcohol should be careful to keep their intake moderate. Seniors who don't drink at all should avoid starting.
7. Reach out for support.
Heart disease isn't just caused by physical lifestyle factors. Emotional factors, such as loneliness, stress, and depression, have also been linked to poor heart health. Seniors can avoid the emotional factors that contribute to heart disease by reaching out for support and company when they need it.
For seniors who are finding life's everyday tasks a little difficult, hiring a home caregiver can be a big help. A home caregiver can also help seniors who are feeling lonely or who want to get out of the house more. And whether a senior is ready to hire a caregiver or not, family members and friends can also be a good resource for both practical and emotional support.
Home Care Services in California
Much of the time, heart disease is preventable. There are lots of things people can do to keep themselves as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Even little lifestyle changes can make a big impact on a person's independence and quality of life for years to come. By sticking to the best heart healthy habits for seniors, people can make the most of their health at any age.
If you are looking for a home caregiver, please reach out to Alegre Home Care about our many options for home care services in California. We have several locations and always try to find the best match between home caregiver and client. Contact us for more information!