February is American Heart Month, where we all aim to do our parts to lessen our risk of heart disease. As an older adult, there are a lot of simple things you can do to do improve your heart health.
Know your Risk and Understand Symptoms
American Heart Month acts as a great reminder to schedule an appointment with your doctor for a check-up to determine your heart health. Your risk for heart disease, stroke, and heart attack increases as you age, and each of these medical events can seriously impair your quality of life. However, heart disease isn’t an inevitability; it’s never too late to improve your heart health.
Review the signs of heart disease here.
Eating a healthy diet is a great way to improve your heart health. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, monounsaturated fats, potassium, and folic acid helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol, control blood sugar, maintain cell health, and decrease inflammation. This helps to lower your risk of blood clots and heart disease. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Foods like salmon, avocados, blueberries, oatmeal, flaxseed, almonds, black beans, spinach, broccoli, and brown rice are great foods to add to your diet. If you have a sweet tooth, even dark chocolate is a good option thanks to its heart-health flavonoids! Stay away from saturated and trans fats, and excess amounts of sugar and sodium.
Regular exercise is a great way to lower your risk of heart disease. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise 5 times per week. And it doesn’t have to be the most strenuous exercise, like running. Something as simple as yardwork counts! Low-impact exercise like running and swimming is perfect. Or try something more calming, like yoga or tai chi.
This may be a great way to drop a few pounds. Obesity is linked to heart disease.
If you smoke, there is never a better time to quit. Smoking increases your risk for a variety of diseases, one of them including heart disease. Even if you have smoked for decades, your body will begin to heal itself as soon as you quit and you will significantly lower your risk of heart disease.
Control your Stress Levels
Some studies suggest that high stress levels can lead to an increase risk of heart disease. If your body is constantly responding to stress, you may have high levels of cortisol. This can increase bad cholesterol and raise your blood pressure. It can also raise your blood sugar levels. It may even encourage plaque buildup in the arteries. Find a healthy way to deal with stress, such as exercising, reaching out to family and friends for support, and getting medical assistance.