Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Andrea Van Beek, EMT-P, RN – Porter Hills Home Care
Click here to watch the WZZM13 Senior Wellness segment on this topic.
February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the primary cause of death in the United States for both men and women, claiming almost 1 million lives annually.
Our heart is the size of your fist and carries oxygenated blood to organs, tissues, and other blood vessels. As we age, these blood vessels become “stiff” and fatty deposits begin to build up causing them to narrow. Strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots in legs and lungs are all outcomes of narrowing vessels due to age and poor heart health.
What are some of the ways we can take care of our hearts as we age?
You have ONE unique and amazing heart. Even if we have had some challenges, it is never too late to take care of our hearts.
There are four simple lifestyle changes that we can address:
1. Become a food fanatic
Foods you should include in your diet:
- Lean meat, chicken or fish
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains and legumes
- Healthy fats such as almonds or avocados
Foods to avoid:
- Foods high in cholesterol like red meats and high-fat dairy products
- Fried food, such as French fries or fried chicken
- Fast food
- Processed foods such as frozen dinners – very often seniors turn to this food if they are eating alone.
- Sodium, which increases blood pressure causing the heart to pump harder. It is found in high levels in canned foods such as soup and vegetables
Watch portion sizes and keep everything in moderation
- Consult with your physician to come up with an exercise plan.
- Make exercise a part of your daily routine.
- Swim, walk, or find a group exercise program that will help you stay committed.
- Start or join a walking group on MeetUp.com.
- YMCA’s in the area offer Active Older Adult (AOA) programs for individuals 55 and older. Some YMCA’s also offer Healthy Heart preventative programs for individuals who are already diagnosed with heart disease. Upon having a medical release from your physician, your blood pressure is monitored by a nurse or EMT during your exercise sessions.
3. Medication Management
57 – 63% of individuals who use prescription drugs regularly admit that they forget to take their medications. How can you decrease risk of heart attack or stroke?
- Take meds on time as prescribed by your physician
- Set an alarm or reminder
- Find a medication box that allows you to set up medications for one week or a month.
- Contact an organization or agency that may be able to provide assistance with setting up your medication box or dispenser.
- If money is a barrier with obtaining your medications, please let your physician or pharmacist know immediately, so they can assist you in finding low cost alternatives.
4. Break Bad Habits
- Quit Smoking – Smoking decreases your ability to exercise, increases your blood pressure and the ability for your blood to clot. It’s never too late to quit, and there are many resources available to help you. Go to www.smokefree.gov to download an app to assist you in your desire to quit.
- Decrease your alcohol intake – Excessive intake of alcohol can cause obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, and sudden cardiac death. The American Heart Association recommends moderation. This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.”
You can breathe without a lung, you can function without a kidney or spleen, but you have ONE amazing heart…it makes everything in your body run. In February as we celebrate American Heart Month, pick up the pace, eat your veggies, know your medications, and be STRONG in your fight against heart disease.