February is American Heart Month when we focus on raising awareness about heart disease and taking steps to improve our heart health. This is especially important for older adults at an increased risk for heart disease. As we age, our heart and blood vessels can become less flexible, making it more difficult for blood to flow freely. This can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and other severe health conditions.
If you are an older adult or a caregiver for an older adult, there are several steps you can take to improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
1. Stay physically active: Regular exercise is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy. Even gentle activities like walking, gardening, or yoga can make a big difference. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
2. Eat a heart-healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats can help keep your heart healthy. Avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
3. Manage chronic conditions: Conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can all increase the risk of heart disease. Work with your healthcare provider to manage these conditions and keep them under control.
4. Quit Smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to quit.
5. Stay socially connected: Social isolation and loneliness can have a negative impact on heart health. Stay connected with friends and family, and consider joining a social group or participating in activities you enjoy.
For caregivers, it is important to support the older adults in your care as they work to improve their heart health. Encourage and assist with physical activity, help prepare heart-healthy meals, and remind them to take their medications and attend medical appointments.
Finally, it is essential for all older adults and their caregivers to be aware of the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke. These include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arms, or legs, and difficulty speaking. If you or someone you care for experiences these symptoms seek medical attention immediately.
By improving heart health, older adults and their caregivers can reduce the risk of heart disease and enjoy a healthier, happier life. Use American Heart Month as a reminder to prioritize heart health and work with your healthcare provider to develop a plan that works for you.