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The Importance of Maintaining Heart Health as We Age

Cardiovascular Health

September is National Healthy Aging month, and we at The Legacy Senior Communities want to take the opportunity to discuss various elements of healthy aging throughout the month. For our first topic, we’ve decided to touch on cardiovascular health. As the leading cause of death for men and women, heart disease kills almost 600,000 (1 in every 4 people in the United States) every year. It’s for this reason that we hope to further educate the public of the importance in maintaining one’s cardiovascular health.

Diet and Cardio Health

As we age our bodies lose muscle leading to a decreased metabolism. One way to counteract this is to continue building muscle by lifting weights and doing resistance exercises. However, a more obvious approach is to consume a little less food. When we do that, we need to realize we have to take in the same nutrients from less food. With this in mind, eating “nutrient dense” foods is key. You can start by looking at your own BMI and seeing if it is in a normal range. Maintaining a healthy weight is a goal worth achieving for a healthy heart.

Somewhere along the line, we need to start thinking about what we put in our bodies, but it’s also important to remember that no diet plan will work if it is so strict and unappealing that we never enjoy our food. The key is not to be rigid, but rather, to make the most of your meals healthy and occasionally indulge. No matter what your current health, it is always wise to check with a doctor before starting a new way of eating.

Below are some general dietary guidelines to increase your chances of a healthy heart:

  1. Eat colorful fruits and vegetables.

Low in calories, high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, adults should eat at least five servings per day of these nutrition powerhouses. Be sure to choose a variety of colored fruits and vegetables to ensure you receive the maximum benefit. Colors indicate a concentration of a specific nutrient. For example, tomatoes are dense in lutein, which benefits your heart and eyes, while blueberries are rich in antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C, making them a top choice of doctors and nutritionists.

  1. Avoid high-fat dairy and meat.

Look for skinless cuts of lean meat with the least amount of visible fat. Cuts that say “loin” after them, such as sirloin and tenderloin, are often leaner cuts. Ground meats should have less than 20% fat, whether it’s chicken, turkey, pork or beef. Yogurt, milk, cheese and other dairy products should also be low in fat — 2% “reduced fat” or less.

The one kind of fat you do want plenty of is fat from fish: Two servings a week of salmon, trout, or other oily fish can lower the risk of heart disease and increase the body’s level of healthy omega-3s.

  1. Eat plenty of nuts and high-fiber foods.

Fiber can lower blood cholesterol and keep you full, which assists in maintaining a healthy weight. You can find fiber in fruits, veggies, beans and whole-grain breads and cereals, as well as in nuts. Almonds and walnuts also have plenty of other valuable nutrients and have a significant impact on heart health according to recent studies.

  1. Avoid butter.

Consider replacing butter with a healthier spread such as Smart Balance, Brummel and Brown, Benechol or Promise. Unlike butter, these spreads have healthy fats in them and contain plant sterols which may lower bad cholesterol.

  1. Read nutrition labels.

Replacing sugary drinks like soda or fruit juice with water, or even herbal tea, is an ideal way to eliminate some sugar from your diet. But what about things like sodium? It’s easy for salt to sneak in, especially with prepared foods, so be sure to read the nutrition label.

  1. Consider frozen or canned fruits and veggies.

Making sure the kitchen is well-stocked with healthy items and low on tempting junk food to ensure  you get the right nutrition. Frozen fruits and vegetables have the same amounts of vitamins and minerals in them, though their prices are often lower, and they stay fresh longer. Canned fruits and veggies offer similar benefits, though be sure to choose unsalted or unsweetened varieties when possible.

  1. Don’t rush into major lifestyle changes.

It can be overwhelming trying to manage everything you need to eat, but don’t be discouraged. Try to stick to these dietary guidelines as best as you can and start improving your heart health today.

Eating better is one of the American Heart Association’s “Simple 7” factors for improved heart health. When you maintain a healthy diet along with regular physical exercise and other good habits, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll live longer too.

Exercise for Better Cardio

According to the National Institution of Health, there are four types of exercise: Endurance, Flexibility, Balance, and Strength. Of these, endurance, or “cardio” exercises are the best for a healthy heart. Endurance/cardio exercise increase heart and breathing rates and includes things like walking, running, hiking, swimming, biking, aerobics, etc.

It is important to do some cardio every week – how much depends on your health factors. Before starting any new exercise routine, it’s always important to communicate with a doctor first, particularly seniors and those with any other chronic conditions. While exercising, if you find yourself feeling dizzy or short of breath, you are probably working too hard and should stop.

Here are a few simple health and exercise tips for older adults:

  1. Take a 10-minute walk. If you don’t exercise at all, a brief walk is a great way to start. If you do, it’s a good way to add more exercise to your day.
  2. Give yourself a lift. Lifting a hardcover book or a two-pound weight a few times a day can tone up your arm muscles. When that becomes a breeze, move on to heavier items or consider purchasing free weights.
  3. Breathe deeply. Try breathing slowly and deeply for a few minutes a day. It can help you relax. Slow, deep breathing may also lower blood pressure.
  4. Wash your hands often. Scrubbing up with soap and water is a great way to protect your heart and health. The flu, pneumonia, and other infections can be very hard on the heart.
  5. Count your blessings. Taking a moment each day to acknowledge the blessings in your life is one way to start tapping into other positive emotions. These have been linked with better health, longer life, and a greater well-being, just as their opposites — chronic anger, worry, and hostility — have been found to contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Heart Health Through The Legacy Senior Communities

The Legacy Senior Communities is dedicated to promoting and helping to maintain the heart health of all those we serve. Whether it’s through one of our communities, The Legacy Willow Bend (a Life Care Retirement Community in Plano), or The Legacy Midtown Park (our Rental Retirement Community currently under construction in Dallas) or whether it’s one of the many Dallas-area seniors we serve through The Legacy at Home  (our Medicare-certified home health care agency) we understand that a personal approach to wellness is the most effective way to ensure that seniors stay active, happy and heart healthy.

If you are interested in learning more about the ways The Legacy Senior Communities can help you or a loved one evaluate or improve their cardiovascular health, or if you would just like to learn more about The Legacy Senior Communities, you can get more information by calling (972) 468-6160 or visiting our website.

If you would like to learn more about The Legacy Willow Bend, you can call (972) 468-6208 or visit our website to schedule a tour.

For more information about our home health care agency, The Legacy at Home, call (972) 244-7700 or visit our website to learn more.