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Heart Health Month: How to keep your heart healthy

Learn the facts about heart disease and the best ways to improve your heart health

February is American Heart Health Month! The month was designated as such to encourage Americans to learn about, prevent, and address heart problems.

With heart disease as the #1 cause of death worldwide, it’s important for you to understand the facts about heart disease and learn the best ways to improve your overall heart health. [1]

Keep reading to learn the best heart health tips during this Heart Health Month, plus how your heart changes as you age!

What is heart disease?

Heart disease can refer to many conditions that affect the heart, but the most common it refers to is atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. [2,3] 

Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is a condition where fatty deposits, or plaques, build up in the walls of the coronary or peripheral arteries of the heart. The plaque buildup can then lead to a heart attack or stroke. [2,3] 

What are the symptoms of heart disease?

The symptoms of heart disease often lay dormant until you’re actively having a heart attack. However, it’s possible to achieve early detection by monitoring yourself and discussing any heart disease symptoms with your doctor. 

If you’re regularly experiencing any of the following symptoms of heart disease, you should schedule a visit to see your doctor:

  • Pain, numbness, or tingling in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back
  • Shortness of breath when active, at rest, or while lying flat
  • Chest pain during physical activity that gets better when you rest
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, confusion, or headaches
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach, and/or neck
  • Reduced ability to exercise or be physically active, and
  • Problems doing your normal activities. [3]

How does your heart change as you age?

As you age, there are changes that occur in your body that can increase your risk for heart disease such as the buildup of plaque in the walls of your arteries over the years. Additionally, your heart can’t beat as fast during exercise or stressful situations as it did when you were younger.

The most common change that occurs in your heart as you age is arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which causes high blood pressure.

These changes contribute to the fact that people 65 years and older are more likely to develop heart disease and suffer a heart attack or stroke than younger people. [3]

How can heart disease be prevented?

While your heart health can deteriorate as you age, there are lifestyle changes you can take to effectively delay, lower, or prevent your risk of heart disease. In fact, the most recent data shows that nearly half of heart disease deaths could have been prevented by following best heart health practices. [4]

The best practices to prevent heart disease include: 

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating a balanced, heart-healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Reducing and managing stress
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reducing alcohol consumption, and
  • Controlling health conditions that affect the heart such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. 

What is the best daily diet for a healthy heart? 

Eating a heart-healthy diet is one of the best long-term steps you can take to prevent heart disease. 

Generally, the best foods for heart health include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and foods that are low in trans and saturated fats, added sugars, and salt.

The best diet for heart health continues to be the Mediterranean diet which involves meals loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats such as olive oil. Research has shown that this diet not only improves your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, but it also lowers your risk for heart attack and stroke. [5]

How does exercise strengthen your heart? 

Exercise is beneficial to many facets of your health, but it’s especially effective in improving your heart health. 

Your heart is a muscle that’s best exercised through aerobic training to get it pumping. Regular physical activity also leads to lower blood pressure and weight stability, both of which are beneficial to your heart. 

It’s best to consult with your doctor about what type of exercise would be best for you. Once you decide on your form of exercise, it’s recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity throughout the week. 

Read more: 

8 easy in-home exercise for seniors (no equipment needed!)

Stay proactive during Heart Health Month! 

If you’re diagnosed with heart disease, remember that there are steps you can take to maintain and even improve your heart health. As for those without heart disease, it’s important to proactively care for your heart through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices to avoid any issues in the first place. 

Do you or a loved one need a helping hand at home?

At Flourish in Place, we’re dedicated to helping seniors and adults with disabilities continue to experience the richness of life and retain their individuality in the comfort of their own home.

Additionally, our trained, compassionate caregivers can help seniors protect their hearts by: 

  • Reducing sources of stress
  • Providing a heart-healthy diet
  • Encouraging rest and taking physical activity slowly
  • Creating low level exercise regimens
  • Offering medication reminders, and
  • Watching for signs of change in heart and overall health.

To learn more, please request your Free Consultation today.

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Sources:

1: World Health Organization | The top 10 causes of death

2: Cleveland Clinic | 4 Factors That Can Help Prevent Heart Disease

3: NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA) | Heart Health and Aging

4: Annals of Internal Medicine | Cardiovascular Mortality Associated With 5 Leading Risk Factors: National and State Preventable Fractions Estimated From Survey Data

5: The New England Journal of Medicine | Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts

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