The medical community has declared February to be American Heart Month, when residents of Santa Ana and elsewhere are encouraged to learn more about cardiac health, information that’s useful whether they’re living independently or receiving in-home care.
While it’s lovely timing to associate the month of Valentine’s Day and its heart-shaped treats with better strategies to take better care of your own ticker, the team at Accredited Home Care will be quick to tell you that this focus really needs to be taking place every day, all year long, not just during the shortest month of the year.
Heart disease is something that affects men and women, and the risk of heart-related problems increases with age. It’s also the leading cause of death for people age 75-84, according to AARP. It’s also responsible for 20 percent of all deaths between ages 65 and 84.
The National Institute on Aging said the heart and the circulatory system change over time, especially when someone lives past age 65.
For instance, the heart itself doesn’t beat as fast during physical activity as it used to, although resting rate generally stays similar. Arteries may become stiffer with age, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure.
At the same time, the amount of fatty deposits in the walls of arteries that have accumulated all your life may have built up enough so they start making it difficult for blood and oxygen to move efficiently.
Overall muscle tone may decrease in some people over 65, and obesity may increase as well especially if someone follows the popular American lifestyle trend of poor diet and poor exercise.
So all of these factors can combine to present a significant variety of cardiac challenges, which could lead to everything from heart attacks to aneurysms to strokes other debilitating health conditions. Circulation problems can also be more common.
Better eating, more exercise and quitting smoking are all general strategies to improve heart health for any age, but aging experts say there are some specific things seniors can do, whether they’re in their 60s, 70s 80s or beyond.
One of them is exercise.
The AARP said that seniors can drop their risk of developing coronary artery disease by 14 percent by making sure they put in at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week. If you try to do something daily, that’s only about 20 minute a day or 40 minutes every other day.
The American Heart Association affirms this weekly number but suggests at least 30 minutes a day five days a week.
It also makes other suggestions to help heart health, including:
- Stopping smoking
- Controlling cholesterol
- Reducing blood sugar
- Losing weight
- Eating a nutritious diet
- Managing blood pressure
Science Daily says the same principles apply to people in their 70s or older, including at least 25 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. This can still be low-impact such as walking, bicycling or swimming.
It shared a study from the United Kingdom that this age group receives 50 percent less prescriptions than those who don’t have that level of exercise and also reduce the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, coronary disease and type 2 diabetes.
Regular physical activity of at least 39 minutes a day in one’s 70s or 80s also reduces the risks of unplanned hospital admissions and emergency hospital admissions by half.
Generally this type of activity results in higher circulation and higher metabolism, which can both go a long way in reducing a variety of dangerous health conditions.
Look beyond exercise
While exercising your heart is a good way to boost your whole body, you can also look for ways to boost your overall immune system. This can help with everything from breathing better and having more energy to feeling less run-down and fatigued.
There are a variety of methods to help this, from vitamins and similar supplements to aromatherapy to activities like yoga. Even a flu shot each fall can make sure you stay in good health through the year, rather than having your whole body and physical plan be derailed by something nasty and unpleasant like a flu.
The Mayo Clinic says there are a variety of other methods to help your overall heart health. One is getting enough quality sleep. Naps are always nice and can help people feel refreshed, but at least six to eight hours of sleep a night can go a long way to helping the whole body feel good.
The opposite is also true: less sleep can harm the body in terms of fatigue, lack of alertness, and a weaker immune system.
Looking for ways to reduce stress can be effective in helping the whole body perform better and stay active longer. Endorphins produced by exercise are especially encouraging: it’s the best of both worlds.
Overall, the team at Accredited Home Care is always happy to offer suggestion to clients for good heart health, whatever their age.