According to the American Heart Association’s 2015 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the world and the number one cause of death in the United States as well. Each year, over 375,000 Americans die from heart disease. Your heart’s health doesn’t have to deteriorate with age. There are steps you can take and signs you can watch out for that will help you take the best possible care of your ticker. Here are some tips for keeping your heart healthy and thumping.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Before we discuss preventative measures, you need to know what a worst-case scenario looks and feels like, because sometimes, heart disease is not suspected or discovered until after a person has a heart attack. Be prepared by knowing the most common signs and symptoms of a heart attack:
- Chest discomfort
- Discomfort in other areas of upper body, such as arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
Heart attacks are often experienced differently by men and women. While men are more likely to experience the standard chest and arm pain, women frequently feel heart attack symptoms in their backs or have jaw pain, nausea and/or vomiting, and shortness of breath. Never ignore any of these symptoms! Seek medical help immediately if you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack. Watch an animation of a heart attack to help you learn how to recognize the symptoms when they are happening.
Daily exercise helps to strengthen your heart by improving blood flow, lowering your blood pressure, and helping you maintain a healthy weight. The CDC recommends that adults ages 65 and older get 150 minutes per week (about 20 minutes a day) of a moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes per week (about 10 minutes a day) of a vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, like running or jogging. Seniors can also choose to do a mix of both moderate and vigorous-intensity activities. The CDC also recommends that two or more days a week, seniors do muscle and strength-training exercises, such as light weights or resistance bands. These strength-training exercises need to target all of the major muscle groups - legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. The Mayo Clinic has a slide show detailing simple exercises for muscle and strength training. For more heart-healthy workout ideas, click here.
Eating a diet that is rich in vitamins and nutrients is vital for a healthy heart. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), eating a healthy diet may reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, anemia, and some types of cancer. All adults over age 50 need to make sure that they get the proper amounts of Calcium, Folate (Vitamin B9), and Vitamins D, B6, and B12. For lists of foods that are high in those nutrients, click on the names of the nutrients. Age and gender play a role in deciding how much of each nutrient a person needs. Click here to find out what your recommended amounts of these nutrients are. Seniors should also avoid eating high levels of sodium. People over age 50 need to reduce their sodium intake to about 1500 mg per day. Talk to your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet. Watch a video on healthy senior eating.
Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Nearly one in five deaths per year can be attributed to diseases and health complications that were caused by smoking. Cigarette smoking is not only harmful to your heart, but it harms many of the other organs in your body as well. Smoking has been linked to stroke, blindness, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), rheumatoid arthritis, and much more. If you are already a non-smoker, that’s great! If you are a smoker, it is never too late to quit. Talk to your doctor about what options will work best for you while you try to kick the habit. For some great tips on how to stop smoking, click here.
An important part of keeping your heart healthy is staying on top of all of your preventative measures. Along with regular exercise, healthy eating, and a healthy lifestyle, you should make sure to visit your doctor for regular check-ups as well. How often you visit your general practitioner, and which other doctors you need to visit, all depends on your own personal health history and on your family’s health history. Use this form to help you plan your talk with your doctor at your next visit. For more information and when and how you should visit your doctor, click here.
A small level of stress is a normal part of daily life, but too much stress is not good for you. High levels of stress can lead to heart disease and other medical problems that affect your heart negatively, like high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. There are several little steps that you can take to help you reduce your stress levels:
- Stay active, keep up with your exercise routine
- Make healthy food choices
- Open up to people when you’re feeling stressed
- Avoid unnecessary stressors by allowing yourself to say “no” when you need to and by avoiding people who cause you added stress
There are also several natural ways to alleviate stress, such as breathing techniques and calming oils. Ask your doctor for tips on ways to reduce your stress levels.