Heart health tips for seniors

The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation notes that nine in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease refers to a group of conditions that affect the structure and functions of the heart and has many root causes.

The good news is almost 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy behaviours. First, it’s necessary to understand what risk factors increase the chances of heart disease.

Here are a few lifestyle risk factors:

Poor diet

Most people understand that what we eat affects our health. A high intake of processed foods and sugary drinks greatly increases your risk of heart disease. Often times, poor eating habits lead to weight increases and even obesity, which are both directly related to heart disease.

Smoking

Smoking increases the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke. It also directly affects the vessels that supply blood to the heart and other parts of the body. It reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and damages blood vessel walls.

Stress

People feel stress differently and react to it differently. More research is needed to determine how exactly stress relates to heart disease but stress may impact behaviours and factors that increase heart disease risk: high blood pressure, smoking and overeating to name a few. Some people may excessively drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes to ‘control’ their chronic stress, however these habits can increase blood pressure and may damage artery walls.

Ways to prevent heart disease

Eat a balanced diet

Regardless of your current health status, always check in with your healthcare professional before completely changing the way you eat. Here are some general guidelines to improve heart health:

Eat more fruits and veggies. It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins, minerals and fiber to control cholesterol levels and make you feel energized. Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens are a great source of vitamin K, which helps protect arteries and promote proper blood clothing.

Consume whole grains. Common types of whole grains such as brown rice, oats, rye and barely are high in fiber, which may reduce unwanted cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Fatty fish and fish oils. Salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are well known for their heart health benefits. If you don’t enjoy seafood, try a fish oil supplement as an alternative.

Increase physical activity

Cardio exercise is best for a healthy heart. Endurance/cardio activity increases heart rate and blood flow. Examples include walking, swimming, stationary biking or light aerobics. You don’t need to run a 5 km race to benefit from exercise.

As people age, the body naturally loses muscle mass and bone density, which makes getting around more difficult. Lower-impact activities such as walking or recumbent biking can help strengthen muscles, including the heart.  

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Activity Guideline recommends that adults aged 65 years and older should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more to see health-related improvements.

*Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Reduce stress

Since we all experience stress differently, test out various stress reduction techniques to find the ones best suited for you.

For example, reading reduces stress. Reading for as little as six minutes reduces stress levels by 60%, slowing heart rate, easing muscle tension and altering the state of mind.

Quit smoking

Did you know that heart disease risk associated with smoking begins to decrease soon after quitting, and for many people it continues to decrease with time? Quitting smoking is possible, but it can be challenging. There are many resources and strategies available to help you quit.

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death for Canadian seniors, according to Statistics Canada. The good news is; you can make lifestyle choices to improve or maintain a healthy heart.

With chef-prepared dining accommodations and onsite activities, Seasons Retirement Communities encourages residents to make healthy choices when it comes to taking care of their hearts. Call today to schedule your personal visit!