If you are looking for heart health tips for seniors, you will find that aside from the traditional tips about dietary changes and exercise, there are several other things you can do well into your sunset years.
This article provides a compilation of 11 tips you can use, all researched from several government agency sources.
Heart health is a topic commonly relegated to the back burner until much later in life when unfortunately, the issue is brought to the fore front because of a health condition.
Of course, it is better to have started taking care of your heart in your younger years, but it is still possible to prevent further deterioration!
Table of Contents
Heart Health Tips For Seniors – Preventive Steps and Management of Heart Disease
Armed with an understanding of why heart health is important from a previous article, there are several things you can do to keep your heart healthy.
I must confess, that I did not know there were so many!
Let’s get started
1. Physical Activity
Do not shy away from exercise. Try to be more physically active. If in doubt about what exercises you should be doing, have a conversation with your doctor. Talk with your doctor about the type of activities that would be best for you. Try to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
Exercise and be active every day so you can keep doing what’s most important to you. It doesn’t have to be done all at once.
Start by doing activities you enjoy—brisk walking, dancing, bowling, bicycling, or gardening, for example. Avoid spending hours every day sitting.
Practice the 4 different types of exercise recommended by the NIA for the most benefits – see their infographic.
- Endurance exercises ensure that you are able to climb steps and dance to your heart’s content.
- Strength exercises will allow you to carry groceries and lift up grandchildren.
- Balance exercises help prevent falls and related injuries.
- Flexibility exercises help with dexterity so you can drive and get dressed.
You can get additional exercise ideas from the NIA at nia.nih.gov/health/exercise
2. Quit Smoking
Quit smoking as it increases the damage of artery walls. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death (CDC). It is never too late to benefit when you quit smoking and even doing so later life, can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer over time.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been smoking, quitting smoking will improve your health an provide you with life-changing benefits not to talk of adding years to your lift. Some summarized benefits from the NIA include:
- Ability to breathe easily as respiratory problems are reduced. If you smoke, you are more likely to get other infections that can interfere with your breathing such as flu or pneumonia.
- Increase in energy levels as muscles will no longer tire easily
- SAVE MONEY!!!
- Lower your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, and lung disease, osteoporosis and eye disease
- Have better blood circulation
- Improve your sense of taste and smell
- Stop smelling like smoke or having a stale smell
- Wounds heal more easily
- Decrease the risk of erectile dysfunction in men
- Skin no longer looks dull and wrinkled.
- Set a good example for your family
Need we say more? Take the plunge and look for a program to help you quit smoking TODAY!!
3. Follow a Heart Healthy Diet Regimen
A heart-healthy diet consists of the majority of your calories coming from vegetables, fruits and high-fiber foods like legumes and whole grains. These foods are accompanied in moderation by lean proteins, especially fish, as well as low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds.
Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats, sugar, and salt. This is because as we grow older, we become more sensitive to salt, which can cause inflammation in the legs and feet and sugar which can also cause bloating.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods whenever possible is recommended to prevent some of the aches and pain encountered. . Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber, like those made from whole grains. Of course, do not forget to remain hydrated. Get more information on healthy eating from NIA.
But “I need more detailed information than this general recommendation” you say, then try ……. the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan.
This is a good eating plan to follow because it requires no special foods but rather provides daily and weekly nutritional goals. It recommends:
- Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
- Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
- Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets
DASH consistently ranks highest NIH for “heart-healthy” and “healthy eating” https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2021/nih-supported-dash-diet-tops-rankings-heart-healthy-and-healthy-eating
Multiple studies over the 20 years since it was developed have found that the eating plan helps reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, two risk factors for heart disease.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Many factors can affect your weight. These include genetics, age, gender, lifestyle and family habits, culture, sleep patterns, and even residence and work environments and work.
Some of these factors can make it hard to maintain or achieve a healthy weight. As we age, metabolism typically changes.
The implication is that some older adults must now ingest fewer calories in their daily intake by limiting portion sizes, or, become more active to burn up more calories – if they choose not to do so – to achieve or maintain an ideal weight.
Learn more about how to maintain a healthy weight from NIA.
Being overweight not only puts an extra strain on the heart, but it can also lead to thickening of the heart wall, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Check your waist measurement too, as excess tummy fat makes you more likely to develop diabetes and heart problems. A healthy waist circumference for men is less than 37 inches, and for women less than 31.5 inches.
5. Reduce Salt Intake
As we get older, we become more sensitive to salt, which can cause swelling in the legs and feet.
Always check food labels for sodium content levels. Choosing and preparing foods that are lower in salt and sodium might help prevent or lower high blood pressure.
To manage high blood pressure, exercise, dietary changes, and reducing your salt intake can help, but as aging changes in the arteries often cause high blood pressure in older age, medication may become necessary as prescribed by your doctor.
6. Control Cholesterol
Cholesterol helps make hormones, vitamin D, and substances to help you digest foods and the body typically makes all the cholesterol needed for good health.
Cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream by two types of small packets called lipoproteins and you may already have heard about “good” and “bad” cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein(HDL) is the “good” cholesterol, while Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol.
HDL Cholesterol helps your body get rid of cholesterol so it doesn’t clog your arteries because high levels of HDL may lower your risk of a heart attack, stroke, and other health problems.
LDL Cholesterol , on the other hand, deposits cholesterol inside the blood vessels that carry blood to your heart and other parts of your body.
This cholesterol is found in foods high in saturated fat, especially animal proteins. When consumed in high levels, LDL cholesterol can build up in the bloodstream and calcify into hard plaque.
This plaque makes it difficult for blood to circulate through the affected arteries, increasing your risk for cardiovascular damage.
Over time, this along with triglycerides (another type of fat in the blood that puts you at risk for heart problems) may cause arteries to narrow or get blocked, which can cause a heart attack, stroke, or other health problems.
Factors That Increase Risk of Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels
Several factors increase your likelihood of having unhealthy cholesterol levels. From the list below, you will notice that you can only change lifestyle and diet
- Your lifestyle.
- A family history of high cholesterol
- Your race or ethnicity
- Your age.
- Your sex.
- Having obesity can raise your LDL and lower your HDL levels.
- Certain medical conditions may raise your LDL and lower your HDL levels. These include chronic kidney disease, diabetes, HIV infection, hypothyroidism, lupus, and sleep apnea among others.
- Medicines you take for other health problems can raise your LDL or lower your HDL levels.
Choosing fats and oils with less saturated fat leads to a healthier heart. Eating less saturated fat can help prevent heart disease.
Controlling your cholesterol also plays an important role in heart health; it decreases your risks for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
7. Limit Alcohol Consumption – Heart Health Tips For Seniors
Don’t drink a lot of alcohol (Alcohol Misuse or Alcohol Use Disorder). Men should not have more than two drinks a day and women only one. One drink is equal to:
- One 12-ounce can or bottle of regular beer, ale, or wine cooler
- One 8- or 9-ounce can or bottle of malt liquor
- One 5-ounce glass of red or white wine
- One 1.5-ounce shot glass of distilled spirits like gin, rum, tequila, vodka, or whiskey
8. Regularly Monitor And Control Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major health problem that is common in older adults because the network of blood vessels changes with age. The arteries get stiffer, causing blood pressure to rise.
This can be true even for people who have heart-healthy habits and feel just fine. High blood pressure, often called “the silent killer,” often does not cause signs of illness that you can see or feel.
Though high blood pressure affects nearly half of all adults, unfortunately many are not even aware they have it.
If high blood pressure isn’t controlled with lifestyle changes and medication, it can lead to serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease (such as heart disease and stroke), vascular dementia, eye problems, and kidney disease.
Fortunately, blood pressure can be controlled in most people.
Your blood pressure is one area of heart health that needs to be regularly checked and regulated. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can be affected by your overall weight, especially once you reach a body mass index score of 30 or higher.
This score is classified as obese. Excess fat increases the work your heart has to perform to pump blood throughout your body. The harder your heart works, the more pressure is placed on the walls of your arteries, which can increase your risk of blood vessel damage.
Lowering your body weight by even as little as 5 to 10 % can lower your blood pressure and increase your heart health.
Get your blood pressure checked regularly. Fortunately there are inexpensive home blood pressure monitors you can buy to help with management Ideally, it should be below 120/80.
To help lower your blood pressure, reduce your salt intake, get more active and follow a healthy diet
9. Learn To Manage Stressful Situations
Types of Psychological Health
Negative psychological health deals with depression, anxiety, work-related stress, loneliness, angry or hostile feelings, and expecting the worst or seeing the glass as half empty. Positive emotional health include factors such as happiness, optimism, having a sense of purpose in life, gratitude, being tuned into one’s thoughts and emotions (mindfulness), and generally content.
Mental health may directly and indirectly affect heart health
Impact of Psychological Health on Heart Health
Certain conditions such as prolonged stress, anxiety, depression, and anger have been associated with increased inflammation, increased blood clotting, higher blood pressure, changes in heart rate, stiffness in the arteries and reduced blood flow to the heart. All of these can trigger heart disease or related events.
We therefore can see that learning to cope with problems and reducing stress can help lower high blood pressure. Too many people tend to “sweat the small stuff!”
Learn how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems to improve physical and emotional health. Consider activities such as a stress management program, meditation, physical activity, and talking things out with friends or family.
In recent studies, depression was linked to a 30% increased likelihood of having a heart attack and a higher than 40% risk of stroke or high blood pressure – both risk factors for heart disease.
It was also found that work-related stress was associated with a 40% higher risk of heart disease and related events. Stress from other sources.
For example, financial hardships, difficult relationships, discrimination, stressful experiences in childhood, or exposure to other traumatic events – was also associated with a higher risk of heart disease (Glenn et al 2021).
On the other hand, people who reported feelings of optimism, gratitude, mindfulness and other positive psychological traits were less likely to have a stroke, heart disease or related risk factors.
10. Keep An AED At Home For Unforeseen Emergencies
If you are in the high risk category for heart disease a precautionary measure you can take is to acquire an AED for unforeseen emergencies. Most importantly, ensure that you and those that live with you know HOW to operate it!
11. Get Enough Good Quality Sleep
Tell your doctor if you are aware or have been told been told you snore or sound like you stop breathing for moments when you sleep. This may be a sign of a problem called sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea and getting a good night’s sleep can help to lower blood pressure.
The heart health tips in this article include a healthy lifestyle which especially when started at a young age, go a long way to preventing cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle changes and if necessary, medications can prevent high blood pressure or high cholesterol, in the early stages before they cause damage.
The foods you eat and the amount of activity you choose engage in can also drastically affect the overall health of your heart.
Harvard Health Publishing – Heart Health https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/heart-health
American Association of Family Doctors (2017) Keeping Your Heart Healthy https://familydoctor.org/keeping-heart-healthy/
Sherwood C (2017) Importance of Heart Health https://healthfully.com/importance-of-heart-health-7538080.html
CardioSmart News 2021 Psychological Health – Good or Bad – Plays an Important Role in Heart Disease https://www.cardiosmart.org/news/2021/4/psychological-health-good-or-bad-plays-an-important-role-in-heart-disease
Glenn N et al (2021) Psychological Health, Well-Being, and the Mind-Heart-Body Connection: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association 143:e763–e783 https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000947
National Institute on Aging (2018) Heart Health and Aging https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/heart-health-and-aging
National Institute on Aging (2018) Aging and Your Eyes https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/aging-and-your-eyes
National Institute on Aging The Benefits of 4 types of Exercise https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/infographics/benefits-4-types-exercise
Vitamins and Minerals for Older Adults https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/vitamins-and-minerals-older-adults
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/education/dash-eating-plan