Heart disease is one of the most common health conditions amongst men and women in the United States. While our risk of heart disease increases as we age, many seniors can still reduce their risk of developing congestive heart failure or experiencing a heart attack by making some simple changes. And with February being American Heart Month, there is no better time than right now for seniors to start improving their heart health. The following heart health tips for seniors can help.
Heart Healthy Habits for Seniors
1) Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
As seniors age, muscle mass diminishes which means fewer calories burned. If seniors aren’t careful with their food choices, they may pack on extra weight and increase their risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions that can lead to heart disease. Seniors who eat heart-healthy foods can significantly reduce their risk of gaining weight and developing cardiovascular conditions. The CDC recommends eating meals and snacks that are low-calorie, low-sodium, and rich in vegetables, fruits, fiber, and lean protein to maintain a healthy weight and receive a variety of nutrients.
Heart Healthy Foods List
- Lean proteins like skinless chicken breasts, bison, beans, egg whites, unsweetened greek yogurt, and organic tofu
- Foods rich in omega 3s like salmon, tuna, trout, flaxseeds, Brussels sprouts, and walnuts
- Leafy greens and other vegetables like spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, bell peppers, squash, avocado, onions, and garlic
- Berries and other fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, peaches, cherries, and papaya
- Low-fat dairy or dairy-like alternatives like low-fat milk and cheese, almond milk or soy milk
- Whole grains like whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice
Tip! Be sure to read nutrition labels. Many times, sodium and sugar can lurk in packaged foods that may seem heart-healthy.
2) Get Adequate Sleep
When seniors don’t sleep enough or have sleep disruptions, it can directly affect their blood pressure and metabolism. Seniors should try to get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to help reduce their risk of developing heart disease. Research shows that quality sleep is essential for a healthy heart. The following tips may help seniors fall asleep more easily and soundly:
- Establish a bedtime routine and keep to a regular sleep schedule
- Refrain from watching television or looking at electronic devices while in bed
- Exercise in the morning or afternoon — not at night
- Limit caffeine intake and stop consuming it by 2pm
- If needed, take a 20-minute nap during the day
3) Minimize Stress Levels
Excessive stress can compound other heart disease risk factors found in many seniors such as high blood pressure. This is why experiencing chronic stress and anxiety as we age can greatly increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Seniors can help prevent the harmful effects of stress from occurring by following these stress-relieving tips:
- Practice deep breathing techniques
- Go on a walk or talk with a close friend or senior home companion
- Participate in hobbies that bring joy and relieve stress
- Stretch or practice simple yoga poses
- Pet a dog or cat
4) Exercise Regularly (If Possible)
In order for seniors to keep their cardiovascular systems healthy, physical activity is essential. It’s important for seniors to engage in some form of cardio each week. A recent study found that we are never too old to exercise and physical activity can reduce the risk of heart attack in seniors 75 and older. Because exercise becomes more difficult as we age, seniors can lightly exercise for just 20 to 30 minutes and still lower their blood pressure and decrease their risk of experiencing cardiovascular events.
Tip! Seniors should always check with a doctor before beginning any type of exercise routine to see if they are healthy enough for certain workouts. While walking is generally considered safe, it’s always best to check with a doctor first to help prevent injuries or health complications.
5) Monitor Your Heart Health at Home
For aging seniors who wish to live at home, knowing how to monitor their heart health is especially important. Thanks to technological advancements and in-home caregiving services, there are a number of ways for seniors to monitor their blood pressure, heart rate, and more in the comfort of their home:
- Wear a fitness tracker. There are a variety of fitness trackers available to help seniors care for their cardiovascular health. Fitness tracker watches like Fitbit have features for not only tracking exercise, but also monitoring heart rate. The DoSmarter Fitness Tracker also has these features plus offers blood pressure monitoring.
- Get a blood pressure monitor. Seniors can also opt to use manual or automated blood pressure monitoring kits to get daily blood pressure readings. Both types are reliable, and medical professionals consider them to be an important investment in senior health.
- Hire a home health aide. In-home senior caregivers such as home health aides can provide heart health monitoring services such as checking blood pressure, heart rate, and observing a senior’s general physical condition.
Symptoms of Heart Failure in the Elderly
While making healthy choices can help seniors decrease their risk of developing heart disease, it’s still important to understand how to recognize signs and symptoms of heart failure. If a senior notices any of the following symptoms, they should contact their doctor:
- Shortness of breath when lying down or during physical exertion
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Coughing or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
- Severe and sudden shortness of breath
- Swollen legs, ankles, and feet
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Urinating frequently throughout the night
- Lack of appetite and nausea
- Fatigue and weakness or decreased alertness
- Fluid retention along with rapid weight gain
Seniors should also seek emergency medical treatment if they experience any of the following as they may be signs of a heart attack:
- Chest pain
- Severe weakness or fainting
- Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
- Rapid, irregular heartbeat along with shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting
Important: The above information should not be substituted for medical advice. If you are a senior who wants to change their eating or exercise habits, or are experiencing signs of heart disease, see your doctor for a medical exam.
Home Health Care Services Help Seniors Improve Cardiovascular Health
Seniors can experience healthier lives at home and improve their heart health with in-home senior care services. From monitoring blood pressure, to offering stress-relief through companionship, to establishing bedtime routines for better sleep, our home care agency offers these services and much more. Contact us today for a free home health care assessment.