The heart is a vital organ, and it’s important to take care of it. Although we know this, cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of death for most groups of people in the United States.
As we age, our hearts change. They may not beat as fast or as strong, but they still need to be cared for.
There are ways to keep your heart strong as you age, such as exercising each day, eating a heart-healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and managing stress. Keep reading for nine healthy heart tips for seniors to help you keep your ticker in top shape.
How a Healthy Heart Works
A healthy heart is the key to the rest of your health. Before getting to our healthy heart tips for seniors, let’s quickly review how your heart works.
Your heart is a muscle. Its function is to pump blood throughout your body, carrying oxygen and nutrients to your cells. The heart itself also needs oxygen to function properly. When your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can become damaged and weak.
When everything is working properly, the heart muscles pump efficiently and circulate your blood. All your other muscles and organs get the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Changes to Your Heart as You Get Older
As we age, it’s not uncommon for our hearts to change in some ways. These changes are usually mild and don’t cause any symptoms, but they can increase your risk of heart disease.
Here are some of the most common changes to your heart as you age:
- The heart muscle tends to become thicker and less elastic. This makes it pump less efficiently and can lead to high blood pressure.
- The valves in the heart may become stiffer and not open or close properly. When this happens, blood can leak back into the heart, leading to congestion and shortness of breath.
- The arteries may become narrow and hard, making them more likely to block or rupture. Heart attacks or strokes can result from blocked arteries.
- The electrical system that controls the heartbeat may slow down or become irregular. This can cause palpitations or an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
If you have any of these changes, it’s important to see your doctor so you can be monitored for heart disease and treated if necessary.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease includes any type of disorder that affects the heart. Heart disease is not just a leading cause of death in the U.S. but also worldwide. It’s important for everyone—not just seniors—to be aware of the risks and causes of cardiovascular disease.
There are some factors that increase your risk of heart disease. These include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history
Some factors you can control, like smoking and obesity. Others you can’t control, like family history or age. But no matter what your risk factors are, you can work to keep your heart healthy. Keep reading for some healthy heart tips for seniors.
9 Healthy Heart Tips for Seniors to Prevent Heart Disease
Aging takes a toll on the human body in many ways, including heart health. As we age, our risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases. Fortunately, there are activities we can do and changes we can make to keep our hearts healthy and reduce our risk of heart disease.
Some simple lifestyle changes top the list of our healthy heart tips for seniors and can really help to improve your heart health. By making these lifestyle changes (and working with your doctor), you can help reduce your risk of developing heart problems or having a heart attack.
Here are our best healthy heart tips for seniors:
1. Review your family’s heart health history.
It’s important to understand your risk for heart disease by knowing your family history.
Family history is one of the most significant risk factors for heart disease. If you have a parent, grandparent, or sibling with heart disease, your risk is higher than someone who doesn’t have a family history of the condition.
If you do have a close relative with a history of heart disease, it’s critical to take steps to protect your own heart. The rest of our healthy heart tips for seniors will help you make changes to keep your heart in the best shape it can be—no matter your family history.
2. Exercise and stay active.
One of our most important healthy heart tips for seniors is to get regular exercise.
Regular exercise is one of the top activities you can do to improve your heart health. It helps to keep your arteries clear and your heart muscle strong. For the best heart health, you’ll want to try to be physically active every day.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity just about every day of the week. Moderate-intensity activities include walking, swimming, and riding a bike. If you can’t do 30 minutes all at once, you can break it up into shorter periods of time throughout the day.
3. Follow a plant-based diet for a healthy heart.
Eat a healthy diet is next on our list of healthy heart tips for seniors. A heart-healthy diet is one that is high in organic and unprocessed fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and includes lean protein. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and too much saturated and trans fats.
For the best results, eat a plant-based diet that limits or completely avoids animal products. A vegan diet can not only prevent heart disease but may also be able to reverse it in some people.
4. Keep a healthy weight.
Watching your weight is another one of our best healthy heart tips for seniors. As we get older, we often tend to gain a few pounds. One way to reduce your risk of developing or worsening heart problems as you age is by maintaining a healthy weight.
Being obese (a BMI of 30 or more) or overweight (a BMI of 25 to 29.9) puts you at greater risk for developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol—all conditions that can lead to heart disease. If you’re carrying extra weight, losing even a few pounds—just 5% to 10% of your total body weight—can make a big difference in your heart health.
5. Quit smoking.
The next of our healthy heart tips for seniors is not to smoke. Smoking greatly raises your risk of developing heart disease. If you are currently a smoker, giving it up is not only good for your heart but for your overall health.
There are many resources to help you quit smoking, including counseling, support groups, and natural remedies. Talk to your doctor about the best resources for you.
Quitting smoking can be hard, but in the end, it is worth it for your health.
6. Watch what you drink.
Limit your alcohol intake. Too much alcohol can lead to heart disease. As we age, we cannot process alcohol as well as when we were younger. This means that seniors are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol, including impaired coordination, slowed reaction time, and decreased judgment.
You may be surprised to see this included in our healthy heart tips for seniors. Many think that drinking a glass or two of wine can help protect your heart. Several studies in recent years say not really. While drinking a moderate amount of alcohol may reduce your high cholesterol (slightly), it significantly increases your risk of developing a whole host of other problems, including leading to heart failure.
For these reasons, it’s important to limit your alcohol intake as you get older.
7. Know your numbers: diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol all contribute to poor heart health.
It’s important to see your doctor regularly and keep an eye on each of these numbers. While your doctor will have to order tests to determine your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, your blood pressure is one that you can also check at home with a personal blood pressure monitor.
Of all our healthy heart tips for seniors, this one may have some of the biggest impacts on your overall health.
Keeping these numbers in line can reduce your risk of developing more serious heart conditions such as clogged or hardened arteries, peripheral artery disease, or heart failure. Additionally, high blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol can lead to other problems, including poor circulation, liver or kidney problems, and dementia or Alzheimer’s.
8. Reduce your stress.
Another one of the best healthy heart tips for seniors is to manage your stress levels.
Stress can take a toll on your heart health. As we age, our hearts become less efficient at pumping blood and more susceptible to stress. These changes can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, so it’s important to take steps to reduce our stress.
Relaxation techniques—including meditation, yoga, or deep breathing—can help to reduce stress. Other ways to manage stress include exercising, getting outside in nature, and spending time with friends and family.
Make time for relaxation. You—and your heart—will be happy you did.
9. Get plenty of sleep and watch for sleep apnea.
As we age, it may be harder to get the same amount or quality of sleep as we used to. Sleep is important for overall health, and it’s especially important for heart health. When you don’t get enough sleep, your blood pressure can increase, and you will have a higher risk of developing heart disease.
If you have trouble sleeping, there are some strategies to try to help yourself get rested:
- Make sleep a priority—create a consistent routine and stick to it as much as possible.
- Be sure to stay away from caffeine and alcohol before you go to bed.
- Prior to going to sleep, create a relaxing bedtime routine that includes winding down for 30 minutes.
- Darken your bedroom, keep it quiet, and keep it cool.
- Keep your body active by getting up and moving around throughout the day.
Sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing disorder, can interfere with your sleep. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to high blood pressure and other health problems. If you are concerned about sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about getting tested.
Healthy Heart Tips for Seniors: Putting it all Together
Keeping your heart in the best possible shape is key to staying healthy as we age. While you may not be able to control some things—like your age or your family history—you can follow our healthy heart tips for seniors to stay on top of other factors.
Keep your heart healthy in your senior years by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and managing stress. Your heart will thank you!