Greetings, Wellness Warriors! Can you believe it’s already February? February is American Heart Month, which I find fitting considering we also just celebrated Valentine’s Day. Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States?
The risk of heart disease rises with age, especially after age 45 for men and 55 for women. It can also be genetic, so you likely know someone who is at risk.
American Heart Month
American Heart Month is a federally designated event that encourages Americans to focus on their heart health and get their families, friends and communities involved. This month, use your heart to save a heart. Take the time to speak with your loved ones about heart health because it could save their lives. This is a conversation you can have at the dinner table, in the car, via text message, or just having a heart-to-heart with your loved ones about improving heart health as a family. Engaging those you love in a conversation about heart disease prevention can result in heart-healthy behavior changes.
In honor of American Heart Month, I want to touch on how you can help your loved ones improve their heart health. Even if you or someone you love is currently living with heart disease, there are many things you can do to improve the odds of living a long and healthful life.
Know the Risk Factors
Risk factors often develop as you age; high blood pressure and high cholesterol increase your chances of having a stroke or developing heart disease. Millions of people don’t know that they have high blood pressure. High blood pressure raises the risk for heart attacks, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and many other health issues. Researchers are learning that having high blood pressure in your late 40s or early 50s can even lead to dementia later in life. High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms until after it has done significant damage to the heart and arteries. Encourage family members to be aware of blood pressure levels and monitor them consistently.
Get Proactive About Heart Health
Whether your senior loved ones live at home or in an assisted living community, you can make healthy changes to lower the risk of developing heart disease. Likewise, controlling and preventing risk factors is much more important if you already suffer from heart disease.
Luckily, there are many ways to keep your heart in great shape, even as you age. By incorporating healthy lifestyle habits and a heart-healthy diet, you can help protect yourself and your senior loved ones. Here are some ways you can start now to get you and your loved ones on the right track to heart health.
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Get enough exercise. Physical activity is one of the best ways to improve heart health. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. In our Aegis Living Communities, we know that enjoying the outdoors is an essential component of our wellness program. During a one-on-one session with a staff member, scheduled walks have been designed to include sensory stimulation, engaging conversation, balance exercises to build strength, hydration, and fresh air.
Eat a heart-healthy diet. Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables while limiting saturated fats, salt, and foods containing cholesterol, like fatty meats. Food can be a source of comfort and prevention, so at Aegis Living, our Chefs focus on healthy meals that are visually appealing and nutritious. Hydration is also critical to seniors' health, so we offer a comforting and vitamin-packed bone broth and our soothing signature ginger tea, along with snacks and smoothies.
Watch your weight. To help prevent heart disease, maintain a healthy body weight for your size. Too many pounds can add up to increased heart disease risk.
Watch your numbers. No one likes going to the doctor but getting regular check-ups to monitor health conditions that affect the heart like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, can help to make sure they’re under control.
Get better sleep. It’s critical for everyone, especially seniors, to have a good night’s sleep. Most experts say that seniors should sleep between seven and nine hours each night. Sleep is beneficial for brain functionality, metabolism, immune function, and emotional well-being.
Reduce stress factors. According to studies, stress can compound many heart disease risks that older adults already face, like high blood pressure. Take the time to find healthy outlets to relieve stress and lower your risk of heart disease.
Reduce alcohol intake. Excess alcohol consumption can worsen health conditions that contribute to heart disease, such as high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and high cholesterol levels.
Quit smoking. There are many benefits to living a smoke-free life, including improved circulation, reduced risk of certain types of cancer, and feeling more energetic. It has been found that smokers are twice as likely to quit if they have a support system.
We’re All in This Together
It's vital that families and communities avoid bad habits together. Set goals and start by making small, positive changes because the chances are, they will have a big difference. By setting small, achievable goals and tracking those goals, you can extend your life expectancy a little bit each day. Making healthy choices a topic of conversation with your family and loved ones is a great way to open the door to healthier practices in all walks of life.
Until next time, Wellness Warriors, Live Well, Live Long!