The heart changes with age. The muscle may weaken, heart rates are lower during physical activity and blood vessels are more likely to be damaged. The National Institute on Aging reports that people who are 65 years and older are more likely to suffer from a heart attack, stroke, heart disease or heart failure.
While you cannot control your age, making heart-healthy choices and embracing lifestyle changes may reduce your risk of cardiovascular issues. Maintain a healthy heart as you grow older with these recommendations:
Visit Your Doctor
Schedule your routine physical appointments and remember that the doctors’ office is not just for sick visits. Communicating with your physician and check-ups can help identify early heart disease, which may not have symptoms. Be sure to take part in the recommended health screenings for your age group. These will include checking your blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, blood sugar and body mass index. If indicators of heart disease are present, then your primary care doctor will refer you to a cardiologist.
Learn the Signs of a Heart Attack and Stroke
Heart attacks and strokes are often portrayed as sudden and unmistakable events. This is not always the case, and they may have more mild symptoms of discomfort. Quick action is important to reduce the amount of damage to the heart. The sooner a patient arrives at a hospital, the sooner they can receive treatment.
Common Heart Attack Warning Signs from The American Heart Association
- Chest pain or pressure
- Lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting
- Jaw, neck or back pain
- Discomfort or pain in arm or shoulder
- Shortness of breath
Common Stroke Warning Signs from The American Stroke Association
- Numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache with no known cause
Stay Active with Exercise
Continuing to move your body as you age helps to keep your heart healthy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that older adults maintain the same level of physical activity as younger generations, of at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. It is also advised that older adults incorporate muscle-strengthening and balance training. As you grow older, muscles start to atrophy, or decline. Strength training can keep your muscles strong and help you do more aerobic exercises to maintain your heart at optimal health. Research sponsored by The American Heart Association found that older adults were 67 percent less likely to die of any cause if they were moderately or vigorously physically active for at least 150 minutes per week, compared to people who exercised less. Speak with your healthcare team about your physical activity levels and medical condition to determine exercises that are best for your goals. For more exercise tips, check out the post: Importance of Exercise for A Healthy Heart.
Eat a Healthy Diet
A balanced diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease. This becomes more important with age, especially if your physical activity levels have decreased. Avoid foods with trans and saturated fats, added sugar and salt. The body can become more sensitive to salt as it ages, increasing blood pressure levels which is a top risk factor for heart disease. Make sure to get enough protein to maintain muscle. Healthy options include seafood, beans, peas and lentils. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Consider starting a garden, a low-impact physical activity that keeps healthy produce readily available. Check out the post: Heart-Healthy Gardening: Growing Your Own Produce.