Older adults are at an increased risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. While medication can be used to help control these conditions, a good diet plays an important role in staying heart-healthy, too. Older adults’ most common mistakes with their diets are a lack of exercise and eating unhealthy food high in saturated fat and sodium. We’ll go over some easy ways you can follow to stay heart healthy without drastically changing your lifestyle!
Physical activity is a no-brainer when it comes to heart health. In addition to helping with weight loss, physical activity can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also helps prevent anxiety symptoms, which can play a role in heart disease.
Here are some tips for getting active: Start with what you like — whether that’s walking your dog, dancing around your living room, or playing basketball. The more you like an activity, the more likely you’ll stick with it and do it regularly.
Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet
As we age, our arteries stiffen and become less elastic, which increases our risk of heart disease. This makes it important to follow a heart-healthy diet to help slow down or prevent these changes. Limiting your intake of saturated fats and cholesterol is particularly important. Consider replacing butter with olive oil or canola oil in dishes like mashed potatoes and pasta. Additionally, you should eat more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. These include salmon, walnuts, flaxseed oil, spinach, and broccoli. These foods will help reduce your chances of developing heart disease and improve your memory as you age.
Quit Smoking and Stop Drinking Alcohol
Quitting smoking and/or drinking alcohol is a great way to ease anxiety. Stress can have harmful effects on your heart, so it’s important to find ways to manage it. Some people find exercise helps, while others meditate or practice yoga; you may find that a combination of approaches works best for you. If you smoke, quitting will improve your health overall—not just your heart’s health. Research shows that even low levels of exposure cause damage to blood vessels, an effect that only worsens over time and with each cigarette smoked. Additionally, as more evidence emerges linking smoking and cancer (and secondhand smoke), smokers are becoming more aware of their risk for other types of disease.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleeping less than six hours a night significantly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to research published in Circulation. A bad night’s sleep increases levels of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. High levels of these hormones contribute to heart disease by increasing inflammation, which can lead to the hardening of blood vessels. A lack of sleep also increases your C-reactive protein level (CRP), which is a marker for inflammation in blood vessels and an indicator for heart disease risk. To help you start on the right foot, set aside time each day for relaxation practices like meditation or yoga to help ease anxiety—even five minutes is beneficial.
Reduce Stress in Your Life
When your body is stressed out, it produces too much adrenaline and not enough DHEA. DHEA lowers inflammation and can help counteract heart disease. You might be worried about how easy it is to get stressed in today’s fast-paced world, but you don’t have to completely overhaul your life to reduce stress levels and live a healthier lifestyle.