Young At Heart: Heart Healthy Habits For Seniors
When it comes to the impact of age on the heart, there’s both good news and perhaps some disheartening news.
The not-so-great news: People aged 65 or older are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in America.
The good news: It’s never too late to improve your heart health!
Age may be a risk factor for heart disease in older adults, but there are ways to prevent (and even reverse!) some of these risks for heart disease. Through education and proactive steps, preserving your heart health is within your control!
Heart Disease in Older Adults
Your heart is the power supply of your body. This powerful muscle pumps a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen-rich blood to your organs. If the heart stops, your organs and the rest of your body can fail.
Over the years, plaque begins to build up in our arteries, also known as atherosclerosis. This buildup can prevent blood flow and lead to a variety of conditions, some of which are listed below.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries and restricts blood flow to the heart. About 366,000 Americans die from coronary heart disease each year.
Plaque buildup can break away from the artery wall and create blood clots. Depending on the size of the blood clot, it may block blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack. Blood clots are the most common cause of a heart attack.
Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is slowed or blocked. Buildup of plaque in the arteries leading to the brain can interfere with the flow of blood to the brain and increase the risk for stroke.
Plaque can slow or block the blood that nourishes brain cells and prevent the brain from getting enough blood supply in the long term. This can increase the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. According to The Heart Foundation, it is estimated that a third of all cases of dementia, including those identified as Alzheimer’s, can be attributed to blood vessel issues.
High Blood Pressure
As plaque builds up in the arteries, the insides of the arteries become narrower, making it difficult for blood to pass through. The heart must work harder to send blood throughout the body, raising blood pressure. High blood pressure can eventually lead to other consequences, such as kidney disease, heart failure or vision loss.
What Can I Do to Prevent Heart Disease?
Your heart works hard to help you, so you too need to work to protect your heart. There are some heart healthy habits you can start to catch, prevent and even counteract some of the impacts of age on your heart.
Know When to Check Your Blood Pressure
Talk with your health care team about how often you should measure your blood pressure. High blood pressure can often go undetected as it usually has no symptoms, so visit your doctor for blood pressure tests as advised.
Heart Healthy Exercises for Seniors
Your heart is a muscle. If you want it to be strong, you need to exercise it!
Physical activity has been shown to reverse damage to aging hearts. In a two-year study, individuals aged 45-64 exercised for 150 minutes over the course of four or five workout sessions each week. At the end of the study, the researchers found that physical activity had significantly improved heart health and reduced stiffness in the heart muscle, lowering participants’ risk for heart failure. These improvements were seen even in those who had been previously sedentary, proving it’s never too late to start.
Even if you can’t commit to 150 minutes a week, any amount of aerobic activity is better than none. Here are some heart healthy exercises for seniors:
- Use the stairs
- Take a walk with a friend
- Go on a bike ride
- Swim laps at the pool
- Go for a jog
- Improve your strength with weights or resistance bands
Improve Your Heart Health with Physical Therapy
We have the key to your heart — your heart health, that is. Through personalized care plans, our expert therapists will help guide you as you take strides toward achieving your cardiovascular goals.
To start investing in your heart health, call to schedule your appoitment 208-478-1488.