Statistics from the American Heart Association show that approximately 70% of seniors between the ages of 60 and 79 have some form of heart disease, and that percentage grows even higher for seniors age 80 and above. While the risk for heart disease increases with age, the right habits can help protect the heart. If you’re a senior or you have a senior loved one, remember that heart problems don’t have to be inevitable. Since many of the main causes of heart disease are controllable risk factors, use this simple checklist to take control and improve heart health.
Senior Heart Health Checklist
- Know the Symptoms of Heart Disease
- Reduce Heart Disease Risks
- Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
- Get Moving for a Healthy Heart
- Take Care of Your Emotions
- Manage Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
- Kick Bad Habits
Know the Symptoms of Heart Disease
In many cases, the symptoms of heart disease don’t show up until you’re having a heart attack. Seniors and their family members need to be aware of the symptoms of heart disease. Symptoms of an impending heart attack or a heart emergency may include:
- Difficulty breathing or catching your breath, gasping for breath
- Feeling like you’re going to faint
- Irregular heartbeat
- Feeling light-headed or very weak
- Feeling nauseated or vomiting
- Chest pain or a feeling of pressure in the chest
- Pain that radiates into the neck, shoulders, or back
- Feeling like you have indigestion or feeling like you’re very full
- Sudden sweating
If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Reduce Heart Disease Risks
Certain health conditions have been linked to heart disease, increasing the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Treating other contributing health problems is essential to reducing heart disease risks. Seniors with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease, and working with a doctor to keep blood sugar levels controlled can significantly reduce the risk of a heart attack.
For seniors who suffer from angina, taking medications as prescribed is essential. If you already have heart disease, taking prescribed medications, such as calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, and nitrates as prescribed can also reduce the risk of heart attack.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
One of the best weapons for improving heart health and preventing heart disease is to start eating a heart-healthy diet. What your loved one eats is important, not only for heart health, but for overall health and longevity. Of course, a strict, unappealing diet is difficult to stick with, so focusing on making most meals healthy and occasionally indulging in a treat is the best option. Some general guidelines to follow to keep senior meals heart-healthy include:
- Eat plenty of fruits and veggies. Fresh and frozen options are generally the best. Replace processed, high-calorie foods with satisfying servings of fruits and veggies. They’re also packed with nutrients that can improve heart health and overall health.
- Add fish to your diet. Have fish, particularly fish that contains omega-3 fatty acids, such as herring, salmon, and trout, to your diet a couple times a week.
- Go with whole grains that are fiber-rich instead of processed white breads and pastas.
- Choose low-fat dairy products instead of full-fat options.
- Limit your intake of trans and saturated fats. Replace them with healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
- Reduce your intake of foods and drinks with added sugar.
- Go with foods that are low in sodium and start reducing the amount of salt you use when cooking or at the dinner table.
Healthy Eating Is Possible with Help
Our caregivers can help take care of daily meal prep for your loved to keep them on track to a healthier heart!
Get Moving for a Healthy Heart
Exercise is important for optimal heart health, but it can be more difficult for seniors to stay active as they age, especially for seniors with limited mobility. The good news – you don’t have to head to a gym or spend hours working out to improve your heart health.
Any activity that increase your heart rate is beneficial for your heart. Low impact aerobic activities for seniors work best, such as:
- Water aerobics (many swimming pools are wheelchair accessible and have adaptive programs)
- Tai chi (or chair tai chi)
- Line or square dancing
- Yoga (or chair yoga for those with limited mobility)
- Chair aerobics
While getting active is important for heart health, keep a few things in mind:
- Talk to the doctor before beginning any type of exercise program, particularly if you have preexisting health problems.
- Think about how current health problems may affect workouts.
- Start slow if you haven’t been active.
- Listen to your body and stop if you have pain, chest pressure or pain, feel short of breath, or you feel dizzy.
Take Care of Your Mental and Emotional Health
According to Harvard, your mental and emotional health affects every aspect of your life, including your physical health. In fact, research has found a link between an upbeat mental state and a reduced risk for heart disease. On the other hand, chronic fear, stress, frustration, and depression can increase your risk of heart disease.
How can you improve your mental and emotional health to reduce your risk of heart disease? Here are a few suggestions:
- Laugh – Laughter reduces stress and relaxes the body, protects the heart, boosts the immune system, and releases endorphins that make you feel good and relieve pain temporarily.
- Gratitude – Releasing negative thinking and focusing on gratitude can help you sleep better, improve self-care, and ease depression.
- Get Social – Building good relationships and staying social keeps seniors feeling connected, and can have health benefits like reducing the risk for heart problems and Alzheimer’s disease.
Manage Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are both conditions that have a big effect on your heart. If you or your senior loved one doesn’t current have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it’s still important to have these levels checked regularly. Seniors who already have high blood pressure or high cholesterol should take medications prescribed by their doctor and have their levels checked regularly to monitor whether medications are working properly.
Kick Bad Habits
Kicking bad habits like drinking alcohol or smoking can pay off big when you’re working to improve heart health. In fact, smoking is known as the top preventable cause of heart disease. Smoking increases the risk of blood clots, decreases levels of good cholesterol, and increases the risk of both heart attack and stroke. If seniors need help quitting, talk to a physician. Many different medications and supportive tools are available today to help you quit for better health.
Excessive alcohol intake also has the ability to worsen health problems that contribute to heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and arrhythmias. Seniors should have no more than one or two glasses a couple times a week for the best heart health.
It’s never too late to begin living a healthy lifestyle to improve heart health and lower the risk of heart disease. February is Heart Health Month, and now is the perfect time to begin working towards a healthier heart.
If your senior loved one needs help with physical activity, getting out to social events, or with personal and medical care, we can help. Call us today at call us at (610) 269-2935 to find out how we can help you and your loved one achieve a healthier lifestyle at home.
The Road to Heart Health Starts Here
From shopping to meal prep to driving your loved one to their exercise class, our caregivers can get your loved one on track.