Heart Healthy Habits for Seniors

In the past 100 years, scientists and physicians have come a long way in figuring out ways to prevent illness and death. In 1920, for example, people often died of diseases like tuberculosis or bacterial infections, but with the development of vaccines and antibiotics, these problems have virtually disappeared.

Now that people are living longer, we’ve become susceptible to other issues, namely heart disease and cancer. According to Medical News Today, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly a quarter of deaths in 2017. In addition, heart disease affects both men and women and most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

Heart disease is a pervasive issue, and while some of us may be genetically susceptible to developing heart disease, our actions can help prevent it. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), key risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar in check with these heart healthy habits:

Eat a Healthy Diet and Exercise

One of the biggest factors for keeping your heart strong is staying at a healthy weight. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that the more weight you carry around your midsection (i.e. waist-to-hip ratio) increases your risk of developing heart disease.

Staying at a healthy weight has a multitude of benefits but especially for your heart. For one, staying at a healthy weight implies that you’re eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Eating fruits and vegetables and avoiding fried food helps keep your arteries clear and your cholesterol low. Even just walking thirty minutes a day with an elevated heart rate keeps your heart strong. Your heart is a muscle, after all!

Don’t Smoke and Limit Alcohol Intake

It’s clear that smoking increases your risk for several different cancers, but it also elevates your blood pressure, which is bad for your heart. If you do smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking. Talk to your doctor about ways that you can quit. In addition, drinking too much alcohol can lead to increased heart rate, high blood pressure, weakened heart muscle, and irregular heartbeat, none of which improve your overall heart health.

Manage Stress

Stress is our bodies’ “fight-or-flight” response to a challenge or demand. When we feel stress, we often experience both emotional and physical symptoms. Our minds race, our breath quickens, and our heart rate usually increases. If you’re very stressed, you might even feel your heart pounding in your chest even if you’re not moving. It’s a scary feeling, and it’s also not good for your heart health, since you may turn to eating comfort foods, smoking, or drinking in excess to deal with the stress. Take it easy by doing simple breathing exercises that can help calm your mind and heart.

Sleep Well

Sleep scientists have found that people who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to have heart problems. Sleep apnea keeps people from entering a deep sleep, which in turn causes problems because our bodies release certain chemicals to lower our blood pressure and heart rate only in a deep sleep state. Over time, this can cause higher blood pressure throughout the day.

Even if you don’t suffer from sleep apnea, it’s important to make sure you’re giving your body and heart the rest it needs to stay healthy.