Heart health is important at every age, and the sooner you start looking after this vital organ, the better. The heart is a machine. It pumps from before the time we're born, and it continues pumping whether we're at rest or working as hard as we can. Which means the heart does a lot of work through the years, so it's not surprising that it gets more tired and less efficient as we grow older.
Whether you're dealing with an existing heart condition or think your heart is A-okay, there are things you can do to help keep this machine pumping well and longer.
This is a top tip for any health concern, especially for seniors. If you are worried you're dealing with a heart issue — particularly if you have had any symptoms that might indicate it could be the case — consider scheduling an appointment to see your doctor sooner rather than later.
But if you just want to get the best information possible on how to maintain your individual heart health, you probably don't need a unique appointment. At your next appointment or yearly physical, let your doctor know you'd like some tips for heart health. He or she can provide some and will likely offer print or online resources about diet, exercise and other cardiovascular health topics.
While you can certainly turn to Google yourself, asking your doctor ensures you're getting well-vetted, accurate advice.
If you're dealing with a chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you might be more at risk for heart disease. And if you already have heart disease, you should certainly be monitoring it and doing the work to maintain heart health.
Managing a chronic condition can be overwhelming, though, so use the resources you have. If you're a resident at Autumn View Gardens assisted living in Creve Coeur, you have access to staff members who can help you manage medication, take vital signs and plan diet and exercise to fit your needs.
Knowing the signs of heart disease lets you know when you need to reach out for additional help from your doctor. While many of the potential signs of heart disease could be related to other conditions or to minor issues, you'll want to get checked out if you are feeling unexplained:
• Pain or tingling in your arms, shoulders, back, jaw or neck
• Chest pain
• Problems breathing
• Dizziness or confusion
• Swelling in your ankles or feet or in your legs, stomach or neck
This isn't a comprehensive list. It can be difficult to know if something is a minor issue you're experiencing in the moment or a serious symptom. If you're ever unsure, call your doctor's office or reach out to other medical providers. This is a great peace of mind that assisted living residents have, because someone is always on staff to assist them.
Add more healthy greens and veggies to your plate and less fatty meats. Fatty meats can contribute to build-up in the arteries or other cardiovascular health problems. A well-balanced diet promotes better heart health because it feeds your body the nutrients it needs to function as well as possible.
You might also want to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Processed foods are filled with chemicals, salt and preservatives that aren't ideal for heart health, and they might also be high in fat and calories. So-called diet foods, which remove the fat and calorie issues, are often made with artificial sweeteners and other chemicals that your body can have a hard time dealing with.
Residents at Autumn View Gardens can eat healthy meals prepared with nutritious foods in the dining room. And if you're shopping for your own snacks, take a perimeter approach to the grocery store. Fresh foods, such as cheese, fruits and vegetables, are typically located along the outside walls. Processed foods, such as chips and packaged cookies, are on the center aisles.
The FDA recommends eating no more than 2,300mg of sodium a day. That's about a teaspoon of straight table salt. You can reduce sodium intake by:
• Using sodium-free table seasoning such as Mrs. Dash
• Limiting your consumption of processed foods
• Reaching for slices of fruit or vegetables instead of chips when you need a crunchy snack
Long-term stress can do a number on your heart. Take actions that reduce stress, such as playing games or walking, and try to limit stressful commitments when possible. If something is causing you so much stress that it's hurting your health, you may want to consider if it's necessary to overall enjoyment and function of life.