Living a heart-healthy lifestyle should be a goal at any age, but for seniors in our community, it is especially crucial to prioritize heart health because the risks of heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease and heart failure increase over time. It’s important for us all to know the beneficial changes to our lifestyle that, regardless of age, can greatly improve our heart heath.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two-thirds of these deaths occur in people ages 75 and older, according to a 2016 report from the American Heart Association. While advancing age certainly plays a role in heart-related deaths, gender, on the other hand, does not significantly determine the likelihood of having heart disease. Both men and women are almost equally affected by heart disease, so it’s important for all ages and genders to take preventive actions.
Daily physical activity can have a variety of benefits on your physical and mental well-being.
A minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as maintain a healthy weight. You can incorporate physical activity into your day in many ways, whether that includes joining a neighborhood walking club, taking part in a yoga class, or just making physical activity a part of your daily life. Start slowly and increase the intensity of your exercise over time.
A healthy diet is also important to keep your heart healthy. A nutritious diet can help deter high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, all of which can lead to heart problems. A healthy diet is one that emphasizes nutrient-rich food, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains, while limiting sweets, sugary beverages and red meat. Additionally, if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, as too much alcohol can increase your triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood, which can in turn lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Another way to prioritize your heart health and the health of those around you is by quitting smoking. Smoking not only is linked to most cases of lung cancer, but it also can lead to heart disease. In fact, the American Heart Association reports that almost one-third of coronary heart disease deaths are caused by smoking or secondhand smoke. In addition, people who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a 25-30% higher chance of developing heart disease. However, even older adults who have been lifelong smokers can benefit from quitting. Within the first 20 minutes of quitting, your body will begin to return to normal, with your blood pressure starting to recover, and after you have given up smoking for a year, your risk of getting coronary heart disease decreases by 50%, according to the American Heart Association.
While it’s important to take steps to lead a heart-healthy life, it’s also crucial to know symptoms of heart disease like chest pain, shortness of breath, fluttering in the chest, racing or slow heartbeat, lightheadedness or dizziness. These symptoms can be signs of a much serious problem, and it’s important to find the nearest emergency department if you believe you are experiencing a heart-related issue.
Regardless of age or lifestyle, now is the time to recommit to your cardiovascular health. Doing so can lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease and heart failure while also decreasing your risk of other health conditions. To learn more about how to safely and effectively care for your cardiovascular health, schedule an appointment with your physician today.
Dr. Blake is with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Cardiology.