Happy American Heart Month! Although it is important for everyone to keep up with their health every month, February provides a unique time to focus on one of the body’s most critical muscular organs. According to the CDC, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in America since 1950. Though heart diseases are devastating, 80% of premature heart disease cases are preventable. Fortunately, the best way to combat heart disease is through simple changes to lifestyle and routines.

Heart Disease In Seniors

The phrase “heart disease” is used in a variety of contexts, which can make it challenging to discern exactly what it means. Heart disease is an umbrella term that encompasses different conditions like coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and many more. Plainly, it describes any disease that affects the heart or blood vessels.‍

Heart disease in seniors presents the same way it does in anyone else, though aging does open the body up to more difficulties. As we get older, the cells of the heart muscle slowly degenerate. The heart and its valves become thicker and fill more slowly, which can cause issues with circulation and blood pressure.

Common signs of heart disease include chest pain; shortness of breath; pain in your neck, jaw, or shoulder; pain or numbness in arms and legs; and more. Symptoms presenting in seniors might be less pronounced than those in younger people. Individuals experiencing these, or other concerning symptoms, should contact their primary care provider.

Activities to Boost Heart Health

Maintaining a healthy heart is as simple as making consistent, healthy choices. Here are five senior-friendly activities that have a significant impact on heart health.‍

Stay active
For the prevention of heart disease, it is recommended to exercise or be active for at least 30-60 minutes each day. Exercise lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, two factors that have a considerable influence on heart health. Seniors might achieve this by walking with friends or joining a community exercise class.

Eat a plant-based diet
Red meat contains high levels of saturated fats that can raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. Instead, try eating more vegetables, fruits, lean meats and fish, and whole grains. Plant-based diets are lower in calories, higher in fiber, and help you feel full more quickly.

Eliminate tobacco
While ending an addiction is difficult, tobacco is one of the worst things for the heart – chemicals in tobacco damage the heart and blood vessels. Smoking also reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, putting more strain on the heart and forcing it to supply more.

Manage stress
Stress management is one of the most important things that seniors can do. When put under stress, the body has a primitive fight-or-flight response. As the body releases adrenaline, blood pressure and heart rate increase. This puts unneeded strain on the heart.

Get regular check-ups
Schedule an appointment with your doctor for more information on how to best prevent heart disease. Regular primary care visits are also vital for good heart health!

Start physical therapy
Physical therapy strengthens the heart, the blood vessels, and helps oxygen move around the body more efficiently.

“I recommend finding activities and people that bring you joy,” explains Julie Wilkins, physical therapist and Vice President of Programming and Education at EmpowerMe Wellness. “One of the easiest ways to improve heart health is fun. Social connection is good for the heart.”

Looking to boost heart health in your senior living community? In addition to occupational and speech therapy, EmpowerMe Wellness offers on-site physical therapy to their senior living community partners. Their team of professionals prides themselves on helping senior residents stay active and engaged, while building relationships and having fun. Learn more here, or contact us for more information at [email protected].