Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States. This sobering statistic, combined with the fact that aging also increases or risk of a heart attack, might lead you to ask, “What can I do to improve my heart health?” With the arrival of spring, it’s a perfect time to renew and refresh our daily activities to include more heart healthy foods, and increased exercise for a healthy heart.

Heart Disease and Seniors

As we age, we face a greater risk of heart disease and heart attacks as fatty deposits build up in the walls of our arteries. Aging also causes changes in our blood vessels and heart, which doesn’t beat as fast during stressful times or during physical activity as it used to. High blood pressure is another risk factor that increases as we age, which is also linked to heart attacks and heart disease. Even though our hearts figuratively grow with love from our expanding families and life experiences, we don’t want our hearts to literally expand due to undue stress and unhealthy habits.

Top Heart Healthy Habits

The good news is that we can control some of our heart healthy habits in order to minimize the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Here are some heart healthy habits that you can implement this spring:

Eat a Well-Balanced Diet:

Eating a wide variety of heart healthy foods doesn’t have to be boring! A well-balanced diet that is low in trans and saturated fats, salt, and added sugars are all excellent choices not just for your heart, but for your overall well-being. Look to build a wide variety of colorful, heart healthy foods on your plate with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to keep your blood pressure under control and your heart happy. Not sure where to start? Try looking at the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan to get a sense of what your meals should look like. Begin each week with a menu plan that incorporates these heart healthy foods.

Get Enough Exercise:

Staying active does become a little harder as we age, since our joints and muscles tend to ache after certain activities. However, the old adage “an object in motion likes to stay in motion” applies to our bodies as well! Not only should we exercise for a healthy heart, but it also decreases stress and lifts our spirits. Having a hard time getting motivated? It all begins with just one step. Grab a friend and get walking, even if it’s for a short period of time, every day. Now that the weather is breaking, being outside is joyful. Take this time to catch up, or enjoy some alone time taking in your natural surroundings.

Prioritize a Good Sleep Schedule:

Going to sleep and waking up at around the same time every day is critical for maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. Studies have shown a link between heart health and sleeping patterns, so keeping a regular pattern is good for both your heart and your mental alertness.

Eliminate Unhealthy Vices:

If you smoke, it’s time to quit. Smoking is one of the worst things for your heart health, and causes a litany of other health-related effects. Monitor your alcohol consumption too, and don’t depend on alcohol for stress relief or falling asleep.

Minimize Stress:

Speaking of stress, it taxes your heart! If you’re feeling stressed, find healthy ways to release it such as exercise, yoga, meditation, or mindful activities such as drawing or painting.

Monitor Health Conditions:

Know your numbers! Check your blood pressure regularly either at a pharmacy or with an at-home cuff. Visit your doctor for regular check-ups and blood work that can check for underlying conditions such as high cholesterol or diabetes that can also affect your heart health.

The caring and compassionate team at Nye Health Services are experts at meeting the needs of older adults in both independent and assisted living who want to get moving toward a healthier heart this spring. Contact us to see how we can get your heart health routine hopping!