Note: The following content is for informational purposes and should not be mistaken for medical advice. Please consult a physician, medical professional or specialist for all health matters. Resources used are linked within the post
February has long been associated with hearts. Americans have been exchanging heart-shaped Valentines in the leap month since the cards were first mass-produced in the United States in 1847. More recently in the U.S. however— since December 30, 1963 — February has also been designated American Heart Month.
Fifty-four years ago, in his Proclamation 3566, former US President Lyndon B. Johnson cited a “nationwide problem of heart and blood-vessel diseases” and urged citizens to support programs required to bring about its solution. Sadly, five decades later, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US for men and women — more than all cancers combined — and it takes an average of 610,000 lives every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Heart disease remains a battle, but it is one that can be fought at all ages. The first step is knowing the risks that lead to poor heart health. According to the CDC, risks for heart disease include medical conditions and lifestyle choices such as:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- following a poor diet
- physical inactivity
- excessive alcohol use
For seniors, specific actions can be taken to reduce such risks. In addition to quitting smoking and decreasing excessive alcohol consumption, there are some easy, proactive ways to become more heart healthy in your day to day life.
Three Ways to a Healthier Heart
Note: Each individual senior should follow the advice of their medical professional(s) or doctors and speak with them before making changes to diet and/or exercise.
Tip for a Healthy Heart: Get Active
- According to the American Heart Association, older adults should have at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five times each week or 20 minutes of vigorous activity three times each week, with intensity levels varying per person.
- Muscle strengthening and endurance activities twice each week, as well as flexibility and balance exercises, are important.
- It is smart to have a plan to prevent injuries while taking on physical activities.
- Ideas for activities include trying one of Radiant Senior Living’s many weekly exercise classes or taking walks. Reducing sedentary time by moving around is a great way to help the heart.
Tip for a Healthy Heart: Eat Better
The US Department of Agriculture recommends the following diet for seniors in the US who get fewer than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. Those who are more active than that may be able to consume more while meeting calorie needs.
- Each day, men above age 51 should consume 2 cups of fruit, 2.5 cups of vegetables, 6 ounces of grains – half of which should be whole grains, 5.5 ounces of protein, 3 cups of dairy, and 6 teaspoons of oils (fats that are liquid at room temperature).
- Each day, women above age 51 should consume 1.5 cups of fruit, 2 cups of vegetables, 5 ounces of grains – half of which should be whole grains, 5 ounces of protein, 3 cups of dairy, and 5 teaspoons of oils (fats that are liquid at room temperature).
- Please refer to the USDA’s Choose My Plate website for more detailed information and specific breakdowns of what foods fall under each food group.
Tip for a Healthy Heart: Manage Cholesterol
- There are two types of cholesterol in our bodies, good (HDL) and bad (LDL). The first step in improving cholesterol is to seek out a medical professional to find out your levels for both cholesterol types. If your bad cholesterol (LDL) is high, make sure to have a health professional help you to monitor it.
- Cholesterol is very much related to diet. According to the USDA, eating more unsaturated fats than saturated and trans fats can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve good (HDL) cholesterol. (Additional reading: ‘Mediterranean diet with virgin olive oil may be recipe for ‘good’ cholesterol‘)
- Unsaturated fats found in such foods as plants, fish, vegetable oils, avocado and tuna fish are examples of replacements for foods high in saturated fats and trans fats, like butter, whole milk and baked goods.
- Foods that would be wise to cut back on, according to the USDA, include desserts and baked goods, cheese, sausages, hot dogs, bacon, ice cream and other dairy desserts, fried potatoes, regular ground beef, fried chicken, chicken with skin, whole milk, and full-fat dairy.
More resources to aid you in making heart-healthy choices:
- A fantastic source is the American Heart Association, which has a support network in place for helping seniors with heart health.
- The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has printable publications and fact sheets regarding heart health and cholesterol.
- The CDC has a wealth of information about Heart Disease. How much do you know about Heart Disease and a heart-healthy lifestyle? Test your knowledge about heart disease on the CDC website!