In this post, you will learn about healthy heart tips for seniors. As you get older it’s very important to take care of your heart health. Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women.
Like you surely know, it’s possible to affect the risk and advancement of heart disease with healthy lifestyle choices. This includes diet, exercise, sleep, overall activity and vices like alcohol and smoking.
Today we will look at some of the lifestyle choices and how they affect your risk of heart disease. These are not meant as medical advice but as simple lifestyle choices that have been proven to prevent the risk of heart disease.
What Is Heart Disease
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease refers to several conditions. Many of which cause narrowing of blood vessels. These narrowings can lead to a full blockage which can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or stroke.
Other forms of heart disease include conditions that affect your heart rhythm, heat muscle and valves.
Common symptoms of heart disease include tightness of chest, feelings of pressure in the chest and angina (chest pain). Other common symptoms include shortness of breath, pain and numbness in your legs or arms (because of the narrowing of veins). Pain in the back, neck and upper abdomen are also common.
Symptoms of an actual heart attack include sudden severe chest pain that can radiate to the back and arms, problems breathing, nausea, cold sweat and loss of consciousness.
While there are several medical reasons for heart disease the most common one is atherosclerosis which means a buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries.
These plaques stiffen and thicken artery walls. These buildups can completely block the flow of blood in major arteries, which will result in a heart attack.
Most other forms of heart conditions are either hereditary or caused by drugs and can’t be prevented that well by lifestyle. But fortunately, atherosclerosis can be prevented to an extent with lifestyle choices
There is a hereditary component to atherosclerosis as well but is usually caused by problems in lifestyle like an unhealthy diet, obesity, smoking, and lack of exercise.
Diet and heart disease
There is this fairly recent trend that came along with low-carb diets that states that saturated animal fats are perfectly healthy and don’t cause heart disease.
The same folks who spread this idea also suggest that carbs and sugar are the cause of diet-induced heart disease. If it only were that simple.
What I’m about to explain next is just my view of this problem and not medical fact. Always trust your physician instead of the internet. Always.
What science says
The research that shows a correlation between the consumption of saturated fats and heart disease is overwhelming. It’s been gathered and followed for decades all over the world and this correlation can not be denied.
It’s true there are also studies that suggest that high consumption of saturated fats doesn’t cause heart disease. Or increase risk factors of heart disease like high cholesterol in everyone.
There are also studies that suggest low-carb diets combined with a high amount of saturated fat can bring down your heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels.
There are also studies that suggest a correlation between heart disease and elevated blood sugar levels and diabetes. Which would suggest high carbohydrate consumption might be the cause of heart disease.
So what to make of all of this? My interpretation is that it’s an extremely complex subject with no simple solution. And that there is a high genetic component and probably a certain level of individual difference between diets.
But the most significant component seems to be overall energy consumption and body weight. Losing weight seems to improve all indicators of heart disease risk no matter with what diet the weight loss is achieved.
One thing that seems to be especially dangerous is the overconsumption of both carbohydrates and saturated animal fats. Studies suggest this combination increases all indicators of risk of heart disease.
So what should you do to avoid heart disease?
It’s likely your best bet would be to eat a diverse diet that consists mainly of low caloric density foods like vegetables, lean poultry and fish, beans and healthy sources of carbs like tubers and wholegrain.
Low fat milk products are likely fine if your digestion can tolerate them.
The most important thing is to lose any excess weight and keep your weight stable at a healthy weight.
Avoid eating processed red meat and high amounts of fatty meats and milk products. These contain high amounts of saturated fat.
Stop smoking and avoid excess alcohol
If you are a smoker quit immediately. Smoking affects and causes heart disease in several ways. The chemicals in cigarette smoke damage the lining of the arteries. This can increase the buildup of the fatty plaques we talked about a moment ago.
Cigarette smoke also contains carbon monoxide which binds to your red blood cells instead of oxygen. This means your tissues get less oxygen and your heart has to pump more blood to transfer enough oxygen to your tissues.
Nicotine and other compounds in cigarette smoke stimulate adrenalin which increases your heart rate and raises your blood pressure, making your heart work harder.
Cigarette smoking also makes your blood clot easier which increases the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.
Besides these effects, cigarette smoke destroys your lungs and significantly increases your chance of having several forms of cancer. As you are likely aware.
As you can see there is no reason to smoke besides an addiction. Which is more likely in your head than an actual physical dependency.
Excessive drinking undoubtedly causes heart disease. This is because drinking regularly is actually toxic to the heart. It weakens the heart muscle. This condition is called cardiomyopathy.
Regular drinking also raises your blood pressure and causes systemic inflammation, liver disease, cancer, and peptic ulcers. All these can affect heart disease through several mechanisms. So excessive drinking is not good for your heart health but you probably already knew that.
Over the years there has been debate even between health professionals and the scientific community if moderate alcohol consumption could be beneficial for heart health. There have been studies that suggest that having a glass of wine at dinner might be beneficial.
Unfortunately, several recent studies have shown that no amount of alcohol is good for your health. A glass or two a couple of times a month won’t probably significantly affect your health one way or another. Nut don’t fool yourself to thinking it’s beneficial for your heart health.
Then again glass or two with good friends on the weekend might lower stress levels enough to cause more beneficial effects than negative. But it’s a fine line, to say the least.
So definitely avoid excess alcohol if you want to optimize your heart health.
All forms of exercise have been shown to effectively prevent heart disease. This includes both strength or resistance training and cardiovascular exercise. And it actually is all about your overall activity.
So you don’t have to enjoy jogging or swimming or even sweating that much to reap the benefits of exercise. The important thing is to be active in day-to-day life.
Walk to the grocery store, carry your groceries, take the stairs, go for walk, go for a bike ride, do some yard work, help the neighbor in moving, and chop some wood. You know, all that good stuff life is about.
It’s wise to include some intentional strength training that challenges your muscles and brings your heart rate up a bit a couple of times a week. It’s also good if you can include a session or two of actual cardio exercises that brings your heart rate up significantly for an extended period of time.
The most important thing is to find exercises and activities that you enjoy and can stick with week after week. Yard work and home improvement are both great forms of exercise. So are jogging and swimming. And if none of those interest you, maybe you would like to try some serious powerlifting and HIIT workouts.
Finally, you should make sure you sleep well. Lack of sleep and sleep apnea are both associated with the risk of heart disease. Even if you are otherwise completely healthy, lack of sleep can increase the risk of mortality from heart issues.
There is strong scientific evidence that there is a connection between poor sleep and heart disease. So much so actually that the American Heart Association has issued a warning about it.
Here’s a great explanation of the reasons by Dr. Eric Berg DC on YouTube (YouTube embed. Content not owned or created by ElderStrength.com):
Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase blood pressure and systemic inflammation. Both can cause extra strain on your heart. Lack of sleep can also cause several negative hormonal effects which can affect heart health negatively.
It is clear that quality sleep is just as critical for your long-term health as diet and exercise. If not more so. That’s why it’s extremely important you make sure your sleeping conditions are good. And allow yourself enough time to sleep every night.
If you have trouble sleeping or you think you might be suffering from sleep apnea, consult a specialist as soon as possible. It’s unlikely to get better on its own and the sooner you get a handle on it, the sooner your feel better!
I hope you found these healthy heart tips for seniors useful and will try them yourself. It’s never too late to start improving your heart health. Because the progression of atherosclerosis can often be stopped and sometimes even reversed to a degree over time.
So do your best to exercise and sleep enough, eat well, and stop smoking and drinking. This is pretty much all you can do to prevent heart disease. So your heart will thank as will your overall health if you stick to these principles.
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