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7 Life-Saving Heart Health Tips for Seniors

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7 Life-Saving Heart Health Tips for Seniors

As you age, several changes occur in your heart and blood vessels that can increase risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. For example, a substance made from calcium, cholesterol and other molecules can build up inside your arteries, restricting or completely blocking blood flow. The arteries may also harden, causing high blood pressure and further increasing your risk of heart problems. Fortunately, you're not completely at the mercy of the aging process. You can reduce your risk by following these heart health tips for seniors.

1. Exercise Regularly

At the Bethesda Gardens assisted living community in Terre Haute, Indiana, you'll have plenty of opportunities to stay active. Exercise is good for your heart because it improves your circulation, increases the amount of oxygen flowing through your body and strengthens the heart muscle.

If the weather's nice, walk around the landscaped grounds or head to nearby Dobbs Park Nature Center to enjoy some fresh air while you burn calories. On rainy days, stay active inside your assisted living apartment. Even if you can't go outside, you can work out with an exercise DVD or do chair exercises in your living room.

2. Say No to Salt

The body needs sodium to function properly, but too much sodium increases your risk for high blood pressure and other complications. If possible, use herbs and spices to flavor your food without increasing your sodium intake. Basil and oregano are ideal for Italian dishes, while chili powder and cumin are staples of Tex-Mex cuisine.

Using a salt substitute is another way to reduce your sodium intake, but ask your doctor if it's safe to make the change. Salt substitutes replace some of the sodium with potassium, which could have a detrimental effect on your health if you have kidney disease. Healthy kidneys excrete excess potassium from the body, but damaged kidneys don't filter as well as they used to, causing potassium to build up in the bloodstream.

3. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat is high in saturated fats, substances that can increase the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. A recent study indicates that eating red meat also increases the amount of trimethylamine N-oxide in the blood. TMAO is a substance that may cause cholesterol deposits to thicken. It may also interact with platelets — the cell fragments that stick together to make the blood clot — to increase the risk of stroke or heart attack. Replace red meat with lean poultry or meatless meals to avoid these risks.

4. Stop Using Tobacco Products

If you smoke, consider quitting immediately. Smoking causes about 25% of all deaths from heart disease due to the way it affects the blood vessels. Chemicals found in cigarettes cause vascular inflammation, limiting blood flow and increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, peripheral artery disease, aortic aneurysm and other cardiovascular complications. If you're having trouble quitting, ask your doctor to recommend a smoking-cessation tool.

5. Get Your Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, lower triglyceride levels and may reduce your risk of certain heart problems. These fatty acids are found in salmon, tuna, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts, plant oils and some fortified foods. To increase your intake of omega-3s, have some walnut halves as a snack, eat tuna salad for lunch or choose grilled salmon with steamed vegetables for dinner. Adding ground flaxseed to casseroles, stews and other dishes can also help increase your omega-3 fatty acid consumption.

6. Keep Your Chronic Health Conditions in Check

Many chronic health conditions increase the risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack or stroke, including the following:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Autoimmune disorders (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Fatty liver disease

If you have any of these conditions or a chronic medical condition not listed here, talk to your doctor about how it might affect your heart. To reduce your risk of complications, take all medications as prescribed and follow through on any testing or treatments recommended by a health care professional.

If you have diabetes, you can reduce your risk of complications by checking your blood sugar regularly, getting plenty of physical activity and practicing good portion control when you prepare meals and snacks. Because kidney disease can also affect heart health, it's important to follow your doctor's recommendations regarding diet. The renal diet limits the intake of sodium, potassium, phosphorus and protein to reduce the workload of the kidneys and prevent kidney disease from getting worse. A registered dietitian can help you learn more about this healthy eating plan.

7. See Your Doctor Regularly

Even if you don't have any immediate health concerns, you should still see your doctor at least once per year to discuss your risk factors and determine if you have an elevated risk of developing heart disease. Visiting a doctor can also help you identify problems before they become serious. For example, if your blood pressure is elevated, your doctor can start you on medication right away and monitor your condition to determine if the medication's working. You'll also have the opportunity to make lifestyle changes to reduce your blood pressure levels.

Our assisted living community in Terre Haute, Indiana, has everything you need to stay on top of your health: a kitchen for healthy cooking and prepared meals from experience chefs, safe outdoor spaces for exercise and transportation to nearby medical offices. Take advantage of these resources to reduce your risk of heart disease and other health problems.

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