Heart Healthy Tips
Heart disease is the leading cause of illness and death globally. According to the World Health Organization, ischaemic heart disease accounts for 16% of all deaths around the world. As we get older, our risk for heart disease increases as aging can cause deterioration in the heart and blood vessels, but there are steps we can take to ensure good heart health.
One of the best recommendations for keeping our hearts healthy is to eat foods that are rich in omega-3s, a fatty acid that is important for numerous functions within the body but particularly protects against heart attack and stroke. Omega 3s can even improve heart health in people who already suffer from heart disease.
Omega 3s occur in abundance in seafood such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout), shellfish (muscles, oysters, crab), or can be consumed in a supplement such as fish oil. Omega 3s also occur in other foods such as oatmeal and flaxseed. Experts recommend adults eat one or more of these foods at least once a week or 8 ounces of a combination of them
Beans and Nuts
That old chant “beans, beans they’re good for your heart” isn’t just a nursery rhyme. Beans are chock full of soluble fiber, niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium, B-complex vitamins, and even some omega-3s. Nuts also contain omega-3s along with vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, good fats, and of course fiber. They have also been shown to lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
Carrots are also a good food to consume for heart health. They’re a great source of beta carotenes, which have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Carrots are a great snack to munch on between meals.
Some other great foods to include in a heart-healthy diet are spinach, broccoli, asparagus, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, oranges, tomatoes, cantaloupe, papaya, dark chocolate, and tea.
Seniors can help their hearts stay healthy by being more active during the day and adding exercises such as walking and using the stairs instead of an elevator.
Exercise is one of the primary ways we can keep our hearts healthy as we age. Keeping a healthy weight is also essential but fad diets, in general, have a very poor success rate. Eating a well-balanced diet along with exercise is a great combination for a strong, healthy heart and weight management.
This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and run 10 miles. Moderate aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, dancing, or even water aerobics can help keep your heart strong.
Adding in resistance training with bands or dumbbells not only helps to build muscle, but it can also improve balance that can prevent falls. Whichever exercise you choose, try and create a structured exercise program within your physical limits to support a healthy heart, and always check with your doctor to make sure any exercise program is safe for you to begin.
Getting enough sleep
Certain sleep conditions can actually harm the health of your heart. Sleep apnea, a condition caused by airways temporarily collapsing during sleep, can affect how much oxygen your body is receiving. Low levels of oxygen can increase the risk for health problems such as heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Being overweight is one of the main risks for getting sleep apnea. A study by John Hopkins showed that sleep apnea in middle-aged or elderly people can increase the risk of dying prematurely by 46%. (1) Talk to your doctor if you think you might have sleep apnea as several treatments are available that can help.
Insomnia is also connected to high blood pressure and heart disease. Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep can lead to higher levels of stress, unhealthy food choices, and being less active. Getting a good night’s rest can help your heart rate and blood pressure go down at night.
A team at Harvard University did a study on sleep disruption in mice and found that after 16 weeks the sleep-disrupted mice developed larger arterial plaques than the mice whose sleep patterns were not disrupted. (2) Sleep is vital for our bodies to rest and restore and can help our entire bodies function properly.
This one seems like a bit of a no brainer but quitting smoking can be difficult for some given how highly addictive nicotine can be. However, nicotine has harmful effects on your heart and vascular system. It can cause increases in blood pressure and blood flow to the heart as well as narrowing in the arteries. Also, nicotine remains in your system for up to eight hours after every cigarette.
Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate drops. Just 12 hours after you quit, the carbon monoxide levels in your body return to normal. This in turn allows your blood to carry more oxygen to your heart. Four years after quitting, the risk of you getting a stroke decreases significantly to the same level as a lifetime nonsmoker.
Know the symptoms of heart disease
It’s important to know the symptoms of heart disease so it can be caught early on. Seek medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms:
• Chest pain, numbness, or tingling (at rest and during
• Shortness of breath
• Lightheadedness, dizziness or confusion
• Tiredness or fatigue
• Cold sweats
• Swelling of the ankles, feet, legs, stomach, and/or neck
• Inability or reduced ability to exercise or be physically
Understanding the risks
Your risk for heart disease may be higher if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, are overweight or obese, have pre-diabetes or diabetes, or smoke. Check your heart health regularly with the aid of your doctor.
Regular checkups with your primary care physician or cardiologist are essential to keep your heart in good shape. Doing regular checks of blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels can also help to keep your entire body in balance.