Prevention Tips for Heart HealthFebruary 1, 2023
February is American Heart Health Month
February is nationally known as Heart Health month and reminds us to focus on practicing love and kindness not only towards others, but to ourselves and especially our hearts as part of self-care. Heart health is important for anyone regardless of their age but seniors should be proactive about knowing how well their heart is functioning and take steps to maintain its strength. Prevention is key when it comes to heart disease so read on to learn more about what it is, signs and symptoms of heart disease as well as heart healthy choices for anyone over 55.
What is heart disease?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease (CAD), which affects the blood flow to the heart.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of heart disease can be different for each individual. Oftentimes, early heart disease doesn’t have obvious symptoms so make sure to get regular exams with your primary care physician that includes blood pressure checks. Other symptoms can include pain, numbness, tingling in the shoulders, jaw, neck or back, shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness, dizziness, confusion, cold sweats, vomiting/nausea, fatigue, and swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach or neck.
There are many choices you can make to keep your heart healthy and functioning optimally.
Eat for Longevity
One of the Blue Zones located in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica where many centenarians live quality lives has a typical diet that consists of beans, rice, tortillas, eggs and various fruits and vegetables coming from gardens grown in and around the home. The diet in the area has been this way for many decades dating back to the 1950’s. Here in the United States, the food and regular diet of our citizens has changed and evolved with time to become not so much food but as author Michael Pollan would say, “edible food-like substances.”
As we focus on heart healthy activities and food consumption, whole foods will be the star. In other words, eat foods that look like they have been picked from the ground or off of a plant. If you eat meat, eat a specific cut of humanely raised, non-GMO meat and avoid processed foods such as chicken nuggets or hot dogs. Maybe consider limiting your meat consumption and go vegetarian a couple of days per week! Choose real butter over margarine and taste the difference in “real” food rather than “edible food-like substances.”
Other Heart Healthy Choices
- Be physically active. Older adults should aim to intentionally exercise 3-5 days per week for 30 to 60 minutes. If you have a heart condition, be sure to let fitness professionals know before you join a program so they can safely monitor your workout.
- Maintain a healthy weight for your age, gender and size.
- Manage stress levels. Try methods such as meditation, breathing techniques, journaling, counseling, social activities, movement such as yoga and tai chi and more.
- Control diabetes and blood pressure and cholesterol with doctor approved methods.
It is well known that physical activity reduces the risk for coronary artery disease (CAD). Other important factors to consider are family history and age. Women over 55 and men over 45 are at higher risk for heart disease simply due to age. The good news is you can do a lot to prevent heart disease from affecting you by practicing some of the prevention tips mentioned above. Finally, never hesitate to contact your primary care physician if you experience any of the signs or symptoms aforementioned. When it comes to your heart, show yourself some love and be proactive about keeping it in tip top shape because prevention is key.