As we age, maintaining a healthy heart becomes increasingly crucial. For older adults, focusing on heart health is not just about prolonging life, it’s also about enhancing the quality of life. Here are 15 powerful ways older adults can support their heart health.
15 Ways Older Adults Can Support Heart Health
#1 Regular Physical Activity
Staying physically active is one of the most effective ways to keep your heart healthy. Activities like brisk walking, swimming, or yoga can greatly benefit heart health. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity per week.
#2 Following a Heart-Healthy Diet
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can significantly boost heart health. Reducing salt, sugar, and saturated fat intake and avoiding trans fats is also crucial in managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
#3 Getting Regular Health Screenings
Regular check-ups with your doctor can help catch and manage conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
#4 Stress Management
Chronic stress can negatively impact heart health. According to the American Heart Association, chronic stress may lead to high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
To help manage stress, consider techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, engaging in hobbies, and adding more things that bring you joy into your life!
#5 Prioritizing Adequate Sleep
Sleep plays a critical and often underrated role in heart health. Not getting enough sleep can affect our choices in food and activity levels, which can affect heart health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to increased food cravings, specifically for comfort foods, which often contain sugar and saturated fats. Not sleeping well can also make it more difficult for us to have the energy we need to exercise. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night can help set us up for success when it comes to choosing heart-healthy foods and finding time for regular exercise, both of which are essential for supporting heart health.
Another important consideration related to sleep and heart health is obstructive sleep apnea. If you have any concerns about sleep apnea, it’s critical to speak with a healthcare provider. Research shows that there’s a connection between obstructive sleep apnea and high blood pressure, stroke, and coronary artery disease.
#6 Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Being overweight can increase the risk of heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise is vital for heart health. And regular movement doesn’t have to be complicated! Consider adding more walking steps to your day and browsing the FitOn For You category for recommended workouts. For delicious recipes that make healthy eating easy, sign up for FitOn PRO and get access to meal plans, recipes, and nutrition programs.
#7 Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can both be detrimental to heart health. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake can greatly improve heart health.
#8 Stay Socially Connected
Social interactions can have a positive impact on overall health, and according to the CDC, having strong social bonds can reduce the risk of heart disease. Engaging in community activities, maintaining friendships, and staying connected with family can help reduce stress, which is an important part of supporting heart health.
#9 Mental Health Awareness
Mental health plays an important role in overall health, and research shows that there is a connection between mental health and heart health. Seeking help for mental health issues like depression and anxiety is important.
#10 Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Heart-healthy fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, are an excellent addition to a heart-healthy diet. Some great omega-3-rich foods include wild-caught salmon, sardines, mackerel, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
#11 Know Your Family History
Understanding your family’s health history can provide insights into your risk factors for heart disease.
#12 Stay Hydrated
Hydration is a fundamental aspect of overall health and plays a particularly important role in maintaining heart health, especially for older adults. Water is essential for nearly every bodily function. Some ways to support hydration include carrying around a reusable water bottle, refilling it as needed, and consuming water-rich foods such as cucumbers, oranges, and melons. It’s also important to discuss individual hydration needs with a healthcare provider, as certain health conditions and medications may affect fluid needs.
#13 Practice Good Dental Hygiene
Good dental hygiene is surprisingly linked to heart health, especially in older adults. Emerging research suggests that the health of your teeth and gums can have a significant impact on your overall cardiovascular health. It’s important to keep up with regular dental check-ups and to maintain a healthy brushing and flossing routine.
#14 Be Mindful of Heart Disease Risk Factors
Be aware of heart disease risk factors and discuss any concerns you have with your medical provider. Some of the risk factors of heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Smoking and secondhand smoke exposure
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Being overweight
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Eating an unhealthy diet
- Chronic stress
- Having a family history of heart disease
- The risk of heart disease also increases with age
#15 Engage in Mind-Body Exercises
Activities like Tai Chi and Qigong are beneficial for both mental and physical health, contributing positively to heart health. Interested in adding one of these mind-body practices to your routine? Try a FitOn Tai Chi class with Helen Liang.
Embracing Heart-Healthy Habits
Taking proactive steps toward heart health is imperative, especially as we age. Older adults should approach heart health as a comprehensive journey encompassing a balanced diet, regular physical activity, mental wellness, and diligent self-care routines. By embracing these heart-healthy habits, not only can one reduce the risk of heart-related issues, but the overall quality of life can be greatly enhanced.