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Heart disease remains a leading cause of mortality worldwide, particularly affecting the senior population. With advancing age, the risk of heart disease increases, and lifestyle factors contribute to the elevated risk. Fortunately, by making informed lifestyle choices and taking recommended preventive measures, seniors can significantly reduce their risk of heart disease. Here are some key heart health tips for seniors.

Why Heart Health is Essential for Older People

Underlying health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity significantly contribute to the risk of heart disease in older adults. In addition, age-related factors can put seniors at greater risk than their younger counterparts, including:

  • Age-related changes in your body’s electrical system that can cause arrhythmias (unhealthy changes in your heartbeat due to thicker, stiffer, and leaky valves)
  • Enlarged chambers and thickened heart walls that can lead to atrial fibrillation
  • Increased sensitivity to salt, which can elevate blood pressure
  • Allowing your body to become weak or fragile due to lack of exercise and other poor lifestyle choices in ways that increase your risk of heart or cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases in post-menopausal women due to changes in hormone levels

How to Improve Heart Health for Seniors

That said, it’s important to remember that heart and cardiovascular disease are not normal or inevitable parts of aging. Whatever your age, it's never too late to start making changes that can have a significant impact on your heart health and longevity. Here’s what you need to do.

Get Regular Health Screenings

Regular check-ups, bloodwork, and other screenings are vital for detecting and managing risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels early. They also provide your doctor with valuable “baseline” information that they can use to understand what is normal for you and what may be cause for concern. Getting essential health screenings as frequently as they are recommended by your care provider helps to increase the accuracy of your health assessments and make it easier to diagnose and treat concerns before they get worse.

Strive for a Heart-Healthy Diet and Good Nutrition

A heart-healthy diet plays a pivotal role in preventing heart disease. Seniors should strive to maintain a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. In addition your diet should be low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. Following a mindful diet will not only support your heart health, but also your overall well-being.

Do Regular Physical Activity

The importance of exercise for heart health for seniors cannot be overstated. Physical activity is crucial for seniors, and experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly. Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, cycling, Tai Chi, and yoga can not only significantly improve your heart function and reduce blood pressure, but also help you manage weight and prevent injury. Further, regular low-impact exercise enhances physical mobility and an independent lifestyle.

Manage Your Stress

Chronic stress has been identified as a major risk factor for heart disease. Implementing stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can have positive effects on heart health and overall quality of life.

If you want to take a more targeted, problem-solving approach, it can also be immensely helpful to talk to a friend, loved one, or mental health care provider about your sources of stress. This can help you identify some of its main causes, clarify your perspective on your stressors, and take steps to minimize or eliminate the things in your life that are causing you unnecessary anxiety or frustration.

Stay Social

Did you know that socially isolated adults can have up to a 40% increased risk of recurrent strokes and heart attacks? There is a direct connection between your metaphorical heart (that holds love for people, pets, and life as a whole) and your physical one. Fortunately, with advances in technology, it’s easier than ever to check in and spend quality time with your family, friends, and social groups. 

Take Advantage of Community Support Programs

Social support plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy lifestyle changes, particularly for seniors who:

  • Live alone
  • Are home-bound or experience challenges related to transportation and physical mobility
  • Have severely constrained finances
  • May require assistance with living a healthy, high-quality life for other reasons

Community-based services can assist vulnerable seniors with key components of a heart-healthy lifestyle, including programs that offer:

Preventing heart disease in seniors is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. By understanding the risks, making informed lifestyle choices, and taking advantage of community support systems, seniors can protect their heart health and enjoy a higher quality of life. It's about making small, sustainable changes that add up over time, proving that age, indeed, is just a number when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart.

Stay Young (and Healthy) at Heart With Spectrum Community Services

At Spectrum, we work hard to support good heart health in our senior clients. Our Meals on Wheels program delivers nutritious meals to seniors with limited mobility. Seniors can also enjoy social opportunities through our Connect Friendly Visitor services, Meet & Eat program, and Grab & Connect program. You can also stay safe, active, and healthy with our Fall Prevention Program. Sign up today to get in on the fun!

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance, outreach programs, and services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us to learn more about our services, or consider making a donation to support our work. We can't wait to work with you!