On Wednesday, September 29, we celebrate World Heart Day. This annual celebration is to inform people around the globe about cardiovascular disease (which claims 18.6 million lives each year) while highlighting actions you can take to prevent and control your risk of heart disease and stroke.
“The World Heart Federation estimates that at least 80 percent of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease could be avoided by controlling certain risk factors, such as physical activity, diet and tobacco use,” says Jeanie Tini, Director of Marketing and Sales at The Estates at Carpenters, a Life Plan Community in Lakeland, FL, that offers Lifecare. “Living a healthy lifestyle, no matter your age, is the best thing you can do to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and continuing to age well throughout your retirement years.”
Cardiovascular disease is something that older adults especially need to be aware of because the risk of developing it increases naturally as we age. “It becomes harder and harder to live a heart-healthy lifestyle as we get older due to biology and lifestyle factors,” Jeanie explains. “Exercise becomes more difficult, eating a healthy diet becomes more challenging and years of poor lifestyle choices start to catch up to us.”
The good news, though, is that there are many factors you can control that will greatly increase your chances for a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. “It’s never too late to start making changes to your lifestyle in order to give your heart the best chance at health,” Jeanie says. “Even little improvements can help you feel better, stay healthy and live an enjoyable life.”
In honor of World Heart Day, here are seven things active older adults can do to help reduce their risk of heart disease and improve their overall health … starting today.
- Exercise regularly.
Do you get enough exercise on a regular basis? The CDC recommends that adults get, on average, 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five days a week. Just this minimal amount of exercise helps you maintain and keep a healthy weight, reduce stress and anxiety, improve your cardiovascular system and age well overall. The good news is that you don’t have to run yourself ragged at the gym to reap the benefits. Even a nightly walk around the block can be enough to boost your health and keep your cardiovascular system functioning well. If you don’t currently have an exercise routine, it’s okay (and probably a good idea) to start small. One of the best things you can do for your heart (and overall) health is to exercise on a regular basis. For older adults, this is one of the top two things they can do to start improving their health practically instantly. Working out on a regular basis helps boost mood, improves brain health, strengthens bones and muscles and, of course, helps your cardiovascular system get in the best shape possible.
- Improve your diet.
Or, if you’re already eating a healthy diet, keep doing it. Diet and exercise are the two biggest things you can do to improve your heart health. A heart-healthy diet includes loads of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthy fats while reducing the number of processed foods, refined grains and flours, fatty meats and empty calories. A good rule of thumb when grocery shopping is to shop only the outside aisles – that’s where fresh foods are stocked. Before you change up your diet drastically, though, be sure to talk with your physician to see what sort of nutrients you may need for your specific health requirements.
- Stop (or don’t start) smoking.
Smoking can have a huge toll on your cardiovascular system and overall health. Smoking increases your risk of cancers, strokes and other heart-related issues. Luckily, quitting can provide instantaneous benefits. Studies show that bodies start to heal within minutes after the last cigarette you smoke. After a year of not smoking, you’ll have cut your risk of developing heart disease in half. If you currently smoke, speak with your doctor about cessation methods and tools that can help you kick the habit.
- Visit your doctor.
This is especially important if you have underlying health issues that you’re managing. At the very least, you should visit your doctor once a year for your physical and wellness checkup (which is generally covered for free under most insurances). This allows you to check and make sure your medications are still accurate and valid while also learning about any screening or procedures that need to occur due to your age. Of course, it’s always important to see your doctor throughout the year when necessary – a doctor’s visit can help a small problem from blossoming into a larger one.
- Cut down on your drinking.
Regular alcohol intake can cause high blood pressure as well as a variety of other health issues. Consider cutting back your alcohol intake to the recommended amount (one drink a day for women, two for men). Remember, moderation is key. If you need assistance with reducing the amount you drink, speak to your doctor.
Over the years, research has discovered that the mind and body are more closely linked than ever thought before. It’s no surprise, then, that meditation and other mind/body wellness practices are so popular – they’ve been proven to help reduce stress, improve mental functioning and even improve your cardiovascular system. If you’ve never meditated before, start slow. Even five minutes of practice can reduce your blood pressure instantly.
- Stay connected to the ones you love.
Did you know that emotional wellness is part of a healthy heart? Staying connected to the people we care about helps reduce stress, loneliness and depression. It’s always important to remain emotionally connected to the people we care about. Whether that’s a weekly phone call with your sister, a standing coffee date with a friend or a text stream with your grandchildren, reaching out to others helps us feel more connected – and our hearts happier.
Taking care of your heart will have a huge impact on your health throughout your adult years. By taking steps now, you’re also making strides towards investing in your future happiness and healthy aging.
About The Estates at Carpenters
The Estates at Carpenters is a Life Plan Community offering worry-free independent living, assisted living and high-quality skilled nursing care and rehabilitation. For over 35 years, The Estates has provided older adults in the area with an active, engaging lifestyle filled with abundant choices and the amenities and services that make life easier. A lifestyle designed to keep older adults healthy and well today – and tomorrow.
For more information on The Estates or to RSVP to an upcoming event, contact Jeanie at 863-279-4503 or visit our website.