Small steps you can take to help keep your heart healthy.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults 65 and older, according to the CDC. For seniors with other chronic illnesses, heart disease can be especially dangerous; the American Heart Association found that at least 68% of people over age 65 who have diabetes will die of some type of heart disease.
Although heart disease is common in the senior population, it can be avoided. Here are some diet and exercise tips for seniors to keep your heart healthy this American Heart Month.
1. Ignore fad diets in favor of balanced nutrition.
Something older adults often forget, but which gets even more important as we age, is making sure to get ample nutrition. With age, our bodies don’t absorb nutrients as well, increasing the risk of malnutrition. To stay healthy, you need to eat more of some things and less of others. Even if you’re trying to lose weight or lower your cholesterol, avoid one-size-fits-all fad diets. Focus instead on balanced nutrition including whole foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and lean animal products. The Mediterranean diet, which consists of these simple whole foods, has been studied by nutritional scientists and has been shown to prevent heart attacks and stroke.
2. Prepare your meals in advance.
If you plan your meals at the beginning of the week, you’ll be more likely to keep up your healthy eating habits rather than go out for food or order in. The freezer is your friend: consider preparing a week’s worth of heart-healthy dinners, then pull them out on the day you want to eat them.
3. Start with simple food substitutions.
- Keep enjoying your baked goods—in moderation. Switch out butter or margarine for unsweetened applesauce. The goodies will still be tasty but with less saturated fat.
- Swap out white rice for quinoa. Quinoa is a whole-grain superfood packed with protein and fiber. It provides 5 more grams of fiber and double the protein of rice, plus it has significantly fewer carbohydrates—and it tastes great.
- Try spices instead of salt. If you’re looking to add some flavor to your food, turn to garlic powder or a salt-free seasoning blend to avoid the increased blood pressure that comes with salt.
4. Incorporate all three of these elements—cardio, strength, and mobility—into your workout.
Your fitness routine should include cardio, strength training, and stretching to achieve maximum benefits for heart and overall health.
5. Try a new type of heart-healthy cardio.
Older adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking), or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week, or an equal mix of the two. For a fun, low-impact workout, try water aerobics or swimming. If you have chronic conditions, be sure to talk with your doctor before starting a workout regimen. It’s always important to start low and go slow with regard to increasing exercise intensity and duration.
6. Don’t forget to use weights.
Recent studies show that even a little weight training could reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. Plus, maintaining your strength helps decrease the risk of injury, improve your balance and mobility, and can even reduce pain from arthritis. You can also try pilates or yoga for strength training.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Kumar Dharmarajan.
Published on 3/31/21
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