Keeping Your Heart Healthy as You Age

How to Keep Your Heart Healthy as You Age

Did you know that adopting simple lifestyle changes can help prevent heart disease and help you have a healthy heart? According to the American Heart Association, walking at least 20 minutes a day can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. The older we get, the more vigilantly we must pursue a lifestyle that supports our heart health.

Here are a few tips aimed at keeping your heart healthy and helping you make some easy lifestyle changes.

It’s a Numbers Game

Understanding your cholesterol and blood pressure levels as well as your body mass index is the first step toward establishing heart health goals. Talk with your doctor about your numbers to see where you currently stand.

According to the experts, ideally you want:

  • Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL

  • HDL (good) cholesterol 50 mg/dL or higher

  • LDL (bad) cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL

  • Triglycerides 150 mg/dL

  • Blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg

  • Body Mass Index less than 25 kg/m2

Your Heart is What You Eat

A heart-healthy diet packed with fruits, veggies, lean meats, fiber-rich whole grains, skinless chicken, fish rich in omega-3s and fat-free dairy products will help maintain heart health as it positively impacts your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. If this means completely changing the way you eat, consult a nutritionist for guidance.

Keep It Moving

If fitness has always been a priority, keep it that way. If not, there is no time like the present to start putting one foot in front of the other on a regular basis. The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

Before you embark on any new fitness regimen, consult your health care provider to help you develop an activity plan that considers any chronic conditions or limitations you may have. Personal trainers can also be an excellent resource. The idea is to create a routine that minimizes risks while maximizing rewards.

Before you take that first step:

  • Remember that anything is better than nothing. And if nothing is what you’ve been doing, be sure to begin at a low intensity and increase gradually. Don’t worry about attaining high levels of activity. Instead, focus on creating endurance by adding time to your moderate exercise program as you get stronger.

  • The best way to take steps to keep your heart healthy is to actually take steps. No other exercise can be integrated into your day as safely and easily as a good walk. You will work those large muscles in a continuous manner while improving your cardiovascular system. Start slowly and work your way up to 30 minutes or more around the track, through the neighborhood or on the treadmill. Join a walking club and you will look forward to a regular social outing. Wherever you choose to walk, be sure it is a smooth surface in a safe place. If you walk in the evenings, avoid areas that are not well lit.

  • Whichever exercise you choose, wear comfortable clothing that is appropriate to the temperature and be sure not to become overheated. Your exercise shoes are an important piece of athletic equipment that must fit properly and be up to the task.

  • Warming up is an important part of any workout especially for older adults whose muscles need a little jump start to get ready to work. Gentle stretching before exercising can go a long way to preventing injury.

  • If you are a swimmer, laps in the pool are just what the cardiologist ordered. It is one of the best aerobic exercises available. That said, any water activity can get the blood flowing and contribute to keeping your heart healthy.

  • Take an age-appropriate exercise class that you really enjoy and dance, or yoga your way to heart health with your buddies. Celebrate your success at happy hour with the group later.

It is never too late to make changes and adopt habits focused on keeping your heart healthy. The right information and a little discipline will go a long way toward supporting heart health and reducing your risk of becoming a statistic. If you go the extra mile for your heart, it will return the favor.

**Feature image depicts actual Overture resident(s).