Just as we take steps to protect our eyes, bones and muscles, we have to prioritize our heart health. Many factors can contribute to heart disease, like diet and exercise, and as we get older, it’s important to understand how age begins to impact how our heart functions.
Astral at Auburn understands that a healthy heart is vital to leading a purposeful, active lifestyle. With February being American Heart Month, our senior living team in Indiana is sharing information about improving and maintaining your heart health.
Just like an engine keeps a car running, the heart does the same for our bodies. The primary function of the heart is to ensure blood stays pumping, which it does through two sides of the organ.
Each side of the heart has a top chamber, the atrium, and a bottom chamber, the ventricle. The right side pumps blood to the lungs to promote oxygen flow, and the left receives the oxygen-rich blood and distributes it to arteries throughout the body.
The older we get, the more likely we are to develop a heart condition. In fact, once people reach their 60s, women are 10% more likely to develop heart disease, with men at 20%. The heart becomes stiffer as we get older due to the hardening of arteries, known as arteriosclerosis, which can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure).
Other changes can occur as well. For example, the “electrical” system in our hearts that regulates heartbeat and pulse can begin to slow down, causing arrhythmias (an irregular, slowed heart rate) that might lead to the necessity of a pacemaker.
Aside from the changes that come along with age, other factors can impact heart health, including:
Fortunately, many common risk factors that lead to heart disease (such as smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet and excess weight) can be addressed. By implementing a few modifications to your lifestyle and daily routine, you can begin to improve and maintain your heart health.
The best way to stave off cholesterol and high blood pressure is to stick to a balanced diet by implementing fiber-rich foods, vegetables and whole grains into your everyday meals. In addition, be sure to focus on good fats found in avocados, olive oil and fish, and aim to steer clear of any saturated fats.
According to the American Heart Association, “Year after year, the Mediterranean diet comes out on top in the U.S. News and World Report annual ranking of best diets… This style of eating can play a big role in preventing heart disease and stroke and reducing risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.”
In addition, limiting your salt intake is key to keeping your heart healthy. As we age, we become more susceptible to sodium, which can cause swelling in our legs and feet, among other health issues. People 51 and older should limit their salt intake to 2,300 mg per day – that’s the equivalent of about one teaspoon of salt.
However, it’s important to note that most of our sodium intake comes from processed foods. To combat this, stick to fresh produce and meals you can prepare yourself.
Aerobic exercise is one of the best medicines for your heart. Not only does it get our blood pumping, but it trims fat, so our heart has an easier time getting blood to the rest of the body.
Experts say that adults over the age of 65 need about 150 minutes of exercise per week, which can be broken down to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If 150 minutes a week is too much, start with smaller increments, and work your way up.
At Astral at Auburn, our senior living community in Indiana promotes an active lifestyle through wellness programs and nutritious dining. Part of what makes Astral at Auburn so special is the wide variety of personalized amenities and services that we offer residents. If you’re ready to learn more about our community, call us at 260-247-6632 or contact us online to connect with one of our senior living experts.
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