Keeping your heart healthy is essential to living a long and happy life. The earlier you begin to practice healthy heart habits, the healthier your heart will be as you age. However, even if you’ve yet to begin taking steps towards a healthier heart, it’s never too late to start taking good care of your ticker.
By making simple lifestyle changes and choices, keeping your heart health a top priority can become a healthy habit at any age. Especially if you’re 65 years or older, consider following these 6 tips to keep your heart healthy as you age.
Follow a Heart Healthy Diet
Food is essential to life. With so many types of diets, fads, and options to choose from, it can be hard to know what foods are best for you. According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, a heart-healthy diet is “an eating plan that emphasizes foods that promote heart health, such as vegetables and fruits, whole grains, learn poultry and oily fish like salmon and tuna that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.” Additionally, it limits processed foods, which tend to increase the risk of heart disease with their high sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat counts.
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Diets that are well known for their heart-health promoting benefits include Mediterranean, DASH, and plant-based diets. Alternatively, if following a specific diet isn’t your thing, simply filling your diet with as many heart-healthy foods as possible can make a big difference in your health. But, what foods specifically promote heart health? Following these diet essentials can help you navigate your choices and make a great impact on your heart health:
- Get 3 servings of fruit per day
- Fill half of your plate with vegetables
- Make half your grains whole grain
- Add in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
- Choose low fat or skim dairy
- Opt for lean proteins and plant protein
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Stay Active as You Age
Getting your body moving and your heart pumping regularly is one of the most important aspects of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Enjoying at least 30 minutes of exercise every day can positively impact your heart health, blood pressure, metabolism, mental outlook, and so much more!
If you’ve fallen into sedentary habits throughout your older years, getting active again may feel a bit challenging at first. Don’t worry! By starting small and focusing on staying consistent, you’ll give yourself the best shot at building new active habits. As you begin to feel more comfortable moving, you can build up to more intense activity.
What aerobic activities are good for your heart health? Activities like water aerobics, dancing, group exercise classes, walking, hiking, pickleball, and even many low-impact activities can bring great physical, mental, and emotional benefits beyond just better heart health.
The best tip? Find the activities that bring you joy and make movement fun! If you’re having a good time, you’re more likely to keep pushing yourself and pursuing more movement. As always, be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program to ensure it’s safe for you to pursue.
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Track Your Heart Health at Home
While some heart health metrics, like cholesterol and triglycerides measurement through a lipid panel, are best left to the experts, many metrics can be tracked at home using simple methods and equipment. Regular self-monitoring of these metrics can help detect early signs of any heart-health issues while gathering important information to review with your doctor. Never delay seeking immediate medical attention if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or sudden fatigue, however.
Self-monitoring your blood pressure can play a vital role in helping to diagnose high blood pressure earlier, instead of waiting for your annual visit to the doctor. On the other hand, if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, self-monitoring can help gather valuable information to track the effectiveness of treatments and lifestyle changes in association with your condition. For the highest accuracy, use a wireless, digital upper arm blood pressure monitor to regularly take your blood pressure at home.
Blood Oxygen Levels
Using a pulse oximeter, available at most drug stores and online, measuring the amount of oxygen in your blood is easy and painless. Pulse oximetry is a useful tool which can provide insight into your health status. It is especially useful for checking the health of individuals with conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung conditions, or heart problems, which affect blood oxygen levels.
Sudden weight gains or steady increases in weight could be heart-health warning signs, especially if you’ve experienced heart failure or have other heart conditions. Signifying excess water and salt retention, weight gain can also signal that heart issues are getting worse. Tracking your weight daily helps you monitor your numbers so you can call your doctor at the first sign of sudden or steady weight gain. Pro tip: be sure to weigh yourself at the same time each morning, before urinating or eating!
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The American Heart Association states that “negative psychological health/mental health is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. But positive psychological health is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death”. Stress, especially when it’s chronic, puts our body into high gear and causes heart rates and blood pressure to increase. Exercise, sleep, relaxation techniques, and doing things you love like hobbies or spending time with friends can do wonders for reducing and relieving your stress.
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Get Regular Checkups
Getting heart screenings and regular checkups can help you and your doctor stay on top of your heart health as you age. If you’ve been told you are a high-risk patient, you’ll need to see your doctor more often than someone at normal risk for heart health issues. According to the guidelines set forth by the American Heart Association, regular screenings should include: blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, blood glucose levels, and lifestyle factors. If you’ve been monitoring these measurements at home, bring your tracked numbers to your visits. In addition to receiving professional measurements, your at-home measurements are an important part of the conversation when talking to your doctor about heart health.
Heart Health is a Lifestyle
Making sure you eat a diet rich in heart-healthy foods, staying active, tracking your heart health, managing your stress, and regularly talking to your doctor will help you stay ahead of your heart health through the years. Ready to get started? Join our Healthy Heart Challenge today to start making your heart health a priority through small, fun, and easy steps.