Heart health is important your whole life long, and it only becomes more vital as you age. Many seniors think that growing older and heart issues go hand in hand, but that doesn't have to be the case. You can take steps to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disorders at any age. Even small changes can make a huge difference in your overall health - not just how well your body runs, but how good you feel as well. Here are a few things you can do to keep your heart in top working order:
Your heart is a muscle and, like any other muscle, exercise keeps it functioning the way it's supposed to. Look into starting some kind of regular aerobic activity that elevates your heart rate for at least 30 minutes, three to five times a week. Walking, swimming and chair exercises are all great, joint-friendly ways to get in a cardio workout. If you're not sure where to start, talk to your doctor about what's right for your current activity and ability level. He or she should be able to help you come up with a plan that gradually builds, so that you avoid injury or overexertion.
Eat the right foods
The average diet is full of foods that exacerbate or cause heart problems. Fortunately, there's nothing complicated about eating the right foods - it's simply a matter of doing it. Little changes can make all the difference - for example, choose low-fat cuts of meat for your meals, or switch to whole-grain instead of white breads and pastas. The most important thing you can do, however, is increase the ratio of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Plant-based foods don't need to take up your entire menu, but making them the main focus can have a huge impact on your overall nutrition.
Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, and they give you fiber, which can dramatically improve digestive health. Moreover, they're lower in calories than other kinds of foods so you feel fuller after eating them. If you make these kinds of changes to your diet and exercise regularly, you'll reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, along with a whole host of other issues caused by improper diet and too little movement.
Know signs and symptoms
You can't take care of your heart if you don't know how to recognize when something's wrong. Stay well-informed of the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular problems so you can seek a doctor's advice if you experience them. Some heart attacks start slowly, so if you know to keep an eye out for the symptoms you may catch it in time to intervene. According to Healthline, symptoms of a slow-starting heart attack include:
- On-and-off pain or discomfort in the chest.
- Shoulder, neck and jaw pain.
- Nausea, vomiting and sweating.
- Severe anxiety, confusion or a feeling of "impending doom."
Moreover, Healthline points out that men and women often experience different heart attack symptoms. Common symptoms of heart attack in men include:
- Chest pain that feels like high-pressure squeezing.
- Fast or irregular heartbeat.
- Breathlessness, even while resting.
- Cold sweat.
Women, however, are likely to experience different symptoms, such as:
- Sudden, severe fatigue, or moderate fatigue that lingers for days.
- Poor sleep.
- Gas-like pain.
- Lightheadedness or shortness of breath.
- Shoulder and upper-back pain.
- Jaw pain.
However, each heart attack is different, and you may experience symptoms that are irregular for your sex. Stay in tune with what your body is doing, and reach out to a doctor if you're concerned about a potential symptom.
"Think of stress-reduction methods as puzzle pieces."
Anxiety and stress have a huge effect on your body. These kinds of emotions can cause your body to go into fight-or-flight mode, leaving you with excess adrenaline. This kind of chemical imbalance can cause a whole bundle of issues, from heart problems to digestive issues, and even hives and rashes. When you're experiencing stress, it can seem hard (if not impossible) to stop. Most of the recommended methods of reducing stress make a relatively small immediate impact on your overall mood and outlook. However, every little bit helps. It might be easier to think of stress-reduction efforts like journaling, art or exercise as small pieces of the puzzle of stress reduction, rather than the whole picture. It's not that any of those things will automatically leave you stress-free, it's that each of them add up to make you experience less stress overall.