Heart health is key to overall health, and while heart disease can happen at any age, aging does cause changes to the heart and blood vessels. As you get older, your heart may not beat quite as fast when scaling a big hill, or when you’re stressed. Over time, fatty deposits may also build up in the heart, which can lead to heart disease.
In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of heart attack, stroke and heart failure. According to the CDC, roughly one in five deaths in 2020 were due to some form of heart disease. Fortunately there are many ways to delay or lower your risk of developing heart disease. Here are some key ways that seniors can lower their risks.
However, before making any changes to your diet or activities levels, please consult with your healthcare provider.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
While there can be a genetic component to heart disease, such as family history, sex race or ethnicity, lifestyle choices are also contributing factors. The top risk factors according to the CDC include the following conditions and behaviors:
- Inactivity. A quarter of all adults in the U.S. are considered completely sedentary, meaning they engage in no movement outside of that required for the performance of perfunctory tasks. More than 60% do not engage in the recommended 150 minutes per week of activity.
- Smoking. Smoking is one of the primary causes of heart disease, causing one in every four deaths. This is because the chemicals in cigarette smoke cause blood vessels to become inflamed, which can cause a narrowing of the arteries.
- Poor nutrition. Most Americans get too much sodium and do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in fresh produce and low in trans fat, saturated fat and sugar is less likely to contribute to heart disease.
- Obesity. Carrying more weight can put more strain on the heart, causing it to work harder. While carrying some fat can be a good thing, too much visceral fat around the organs can raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which contribute to heart disease.
- Diabetes. Diabetes is an illness which results from the body either not producing enough insulin or not absorbing that insulin optimally. This leads to high blood sugar, which can damage your heart’s nerves and blood vessels.
- High cholesterol. While your body needs some cholesterol to function optimally, too much can cause fatty deposits of this waxy substance to pile up in your arteries.
- High blood pressure. High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. This is because high blood pressure can damage the lining of the arteries, which makes them more susceptible to the buildup of plaques that narrow the arteries.
How To Reduce Your Heart Disease Risks
Many of the above risk factors are lifestyle-related, which means that they can be mitigated by making changes to your lifestyle. Here are some of the easiest changes to make, which also have the greatest impact on your health.
- Get the 150 minutes per week of recommended exercise. This doesn’t have to be all at once! A 20 minute walk once a day—or two 10 minute walks twice a day—7 days per week (with ten extra minutes on Sunday!) is enough to gain health benefits. Make exercise a daily habit, even if it’s moderate.
- Quit smoking. There is no amount of smoking that does not do damage to your heart. Even light smokers or those who smoke occasionally will see some negative effects on their heart.
- Limit alcohol intake. While a serving or two of alcohol may not cause much harm, drinking three or more drinks in one sitting can raise your blood pressure in the short-term. Repeated episodes of binge drinking may elevate your blood pressure over the long-term, too.
- Eat a low sodium diet rich in heart-healthy greens. Experts recommend that the average healthy adult enjoy no more than 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon and a half) of salt each day. Most added salt comes in the form of prepared and processed foods, including canned and prepared meals and condiments. Focus instead on eating a diet rich in fresh or frozen leafy greens and fruits. Select whole grains and lean meats whenever possible.
- Manage contributing conditions. If you have a condition that negatively impacts your heart, like diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity or high blood pressure, ensure that you meet with your health team regularly. Follow their guidelines and take all medications as prescribed.
Invest in Your Health at Village on the Green
Health and wellness are important at any age, but never more so than in the prime years of our lives. Wellness is about more than regular checkups: it’s a way of life. At Village on the Green, we work with our residents to craft a personalized health and wellness plan to meet your goals. As a Life Care community, we also have professional health services on-site to ensure your care needs are met at every stage of life.
Wondering what life is like here? See if for yourself when you schedule a tour, or contact us using the form below.