Heart disease is the number one killer of women (one in five) and a leading cause of death for men and most ethnic groups in the U.S. The risk factors for heart disease at any age are well-known: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, cigarette smoking, unhealthy diet, alcohol abuse, genetics, and more.
What Can We Do?
Get regular health checks
Regular visits with a trusted medical professional are critical as we age. A doctor will check blood pressure, run screens and blood tests, prescribe, adjust and monitor medications, make dietary recommendations. They’ll also assess mental and emotional health. If you are an adult child or loved one of a senior, your attendance at medical visits might be helpful.
Know the warning signs
Signs of imminent heart attack can include chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, pain in the upper body, arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach, breaking out in a cold sweat, and dizziness. Get help immediately! Many fatal heart attacks can be avoided with swift action.
Eat healthy foods, maintain healthy weight
Heart healthy food choices include nuts and seeds, omega-3 fats from seafood, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and polyunsaturated fats. Foods high in sodium, processed meats, saturated fats, and sugary beverages have been linked to cardiometabolic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. Obesity is a significant risk factor for heart disease, so maintaining a healthy weight is paramount.
Even as we age and our bodies decline in strength, mobility and cardiovascular function, light, regular exercise is still very important to heart health. Assuming there are no chronic or other conditions that would be worsened by physical activity, the CDC recommends that seniors “move more and sit less.”
Don’t smoke, reduce alcohol consumption
Smoking is terrible for your heart. Though it may be a longtime habit among older people, health experts recommend quitting smoking entirely. Too much alcohol is also hard on the heart; no more than one drink per day is advised for seniors.
Respect your limits
Older age can impose unique stresses: loneliness, isolation, diminished mobility, depression, age-related illness, worry about the future. In addition, for those living on their own, the burden of caring for oneself, house and yard can be overwhelming. There is no shame in seeking help, whether from family, neighbors or by moving to a senior community.
Credible information about heart health is abundant, and research and advances are ongoing. It is important for both seniors and their family members to know the latest in heart health. Some excellent sources are the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic’s patient education, and the National Institutes of Health.
Give and receive kindness
Recent times have clearly shown us the value of human kindness. Random acts of kindness are everywhere – from friends, family, neighbors, and total strangers. Kindness literally does a heart good, both extending it to others and accepting it in return.