American Heart Month: Keeping the Senior Heart Healthy

February is American Heart Month and keeping the senior heart healthy requires proper nutrition and exercise. Seniors are at an increased risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association reports that approximately 69% of seniors between the ages of 60 to 79 years have some form of heart disease. For seniors and their caretakers understanding how to choose foods to support heart health and how to develop an exercise plan are the first steps toward a healthier heart.

Choosing the right foods to promote heart health is vital for seniors. Researchers at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy note that eating more fruits and vegetables while eating less salt and meat, will significantly lower the risk of heart disease and for seniors, choosing colorful vegetables is one way to start taking advantage of a variety of nutrients. Each color offers specific nutrients; for example, tomatoes have lycopene, which makes them red and has been found in studies to have a positive impact on heart health. The American Heart Association also recommends that seniors avoid high-fat dairy and meat. Instead, seniors should choose skinless chicken or lean meat and reduced-fat milk. Seniors are encouraged to eat fish such as salmon or trout; certain types of fish have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. Nuts can be beneficial as well; almonds and walnuts have nutrients to keep the heart healthy. Sugary beverages should be avoided, and instead, older adults can choose water, coffee, or unsweetened herbal tea. The American Heart Association suggests fruit-infused water with a variety of berries or citrus fruits as a refreshing option.

Seniors do not need to make changes to their diet all at once. Change can start with having a cupful of almonds, walnuts, peanuts or fresh vegetables as a snack. Eating an apple, pear, banana or other fruit can give the heart the vitamins it needs to do its job, and for seniors, it can help with keeping weight under control—a significant factor in heart health.

Most people know exercise helps keep the heart healthy yet there are some better choices than others for seniors.  The National Institute on Aging recommends endurance, strength, balance and flexibility exercises. Endurance exercises include walking, jogging, swimming, and biking. Taking a walk each day in the neighborhood can lead to strengthening the heart and lowering bad cholesterol and blood pressure. Based on mobility, seniors can also lift small weights, practice balance exercises to prevent falls and work on flexibility by stretching muscles.

Seniors wanting another way to stay fit can choose yoga which studies show lowers blood pressure and harmful LDL cholesterol. Harvard Medical School recommends yoga for seniors because older individuals can do it even in a wheelchair or if they are experiencing joint pain.

Maintaining a healthy heart for seniors begins with careful monitoring of diet and including exercise every day. Keeping the heart healthy starts with making choices, one at a time.

Heart disease is one of the most common health concerns for seniors among other chronic conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. If you or your loved one is facing one of these chronic conditions, the experienced life care planning team at Bratton Law can help. Contact our office today to speak with one of our compassionate elder care coordinators.