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Take Steps to a Healthier Heart During American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month. While it’s important to take care of your heart–and body–throughout your lifetime, it is even more vital for seniors.

Make Small Changes Toward a Healthy Heart

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. The good news is that it can often be prevented by making healthier choices.

Start with these small changes during February’s American Heart Month and you could see results over the coming months, no matter your age. As with any exercise or health regimen, seniors should consult a physician before embarking on a new endeavor.

  • Schedule a visit with your doctor to talk about heart health. Ask questions and trust his or her advice.
  • Already taking medicine for high blood pressure or cholesterol? Be sure to take all of your medicines as prescribed by your doctor. If you have side effects or are having trouble taking your medicine, ask your doctor for help.
  • Cook heart-healthy meals at least three times a week, and reduce sodium where you can by switching it out with herbs and spices.
  • If you currently smoke, take steps to quit. Quitting can dramatically cut your risk for heart disease and stroke. Learn more at CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco Use website .
  • Add exercise to your daily routine. Start off the month by walking 15 minutes, three times each week. By mid-month, increase your time to 30 minutes, 3 times each week.

Speaking of exercise, did you know that while most exercise is good for your heart, you can actually overdo it in some areas, causing more harm than good. Cardiologist Arthur Agatstan shared with Prevention Magazine some “best and worst” exercises for your heart and body:

Best

  • Interval training is heads above the rest for preventing heart disease and diabetes, losing weight, and efficiently improving fitness. Combine short bursts of high-intensity exercise with slightly longer periods of active recovery. For instance, for seniors that enjoy walking as an exercise – alternate three minutes at normal speed with one minute at a brisk pace. Continuously raising and lowering your heart rate improves vascular function, burns calories, and makes the body more efficient at clearing fat and sugar from the blood.
  • Total-body, non-impact sports, like rowing, swimming, cross-country skiing, walking with poles…all recruit muscles throughout the body without beating it up. The more muscles involved in an activity, the harder your heart must work to fuel them all—thus, it grows stronger itself. Add some intervals and you have the ideal workout, but be sure to listen to your body and not overwork yourself.
  • Weight training is really just another form of interval training. You increase your heart rate during reps and recover between sets. By efficiently handling the demands placed upon them, strong muscles ease the overall burden on the heart. Use free weights, which recruit more muscles, engage your core, and build balance. For seniors however, it is important to keep your joints in mind as you start lifting weights, even with lighter amounts. Be sure to consult your doctor before you hit the weight rack!
  • Core workouts, like Pilates and Yoga, strengthens your core muscles and improve flexibility and balance. This is important whether carrying groceries upstairs, gardening or playing a round of golf or tennis. Additionally, the calm that yoga provides lowers blood pressure, making blood vessels more elastic, which promotes heart health.
  • Be active throughout the day. People who are active in little ways the entire day (cleaning, gardening, running errands) burn more calories and are generally healthier than those who exercise for 30 to 60 minutes and then sit at a computer. Wear a pedometer to measure how active you are outside of your exercise time.

Worst

  • Running long-distance on pavement can cause lots of aches, pains and injuries. While running strengthens the heart, it wears out the body.
  • Any type of vigorous exercise you haven’t trained for can release excessive adrenaline, which can bring on a heart attack in those at risk. Vigorous exercise can include anything from shoveling snow to biking 20 miles on the first day of spring. For this same reason, never exercise without warming up.

Of course be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine. Above all, find activities you enjoy. You will wind up both fit and happy.

Our community offers experienced staff who are dedicated to helping seniors live a vibrant, engaged life. From fitness classes, nutrition assistance and community activities to scheduled group outings, personal transportation, and more, seniors can age in place with caring, professional staff, numerous amenities and activities, and assistance every step of the way.

Connect with us via our contact us page or call today and learn more about the healthy lifestyle options available at our community.

Sources:

https://www.theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts/heart-awareness-month/

https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/

https://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/

https://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/heart-healthy-exercises