3 keys to staying heart healthy

March 1st, 2019

By: Sharon Roth Maguire, MS, RN, GNP-BC Chief Clinical Quality Officer, BrightStar Care

Heart healthy exercise and diet habitsStaying heart healthy for seniors is similar to individuals of any age who want keep their heart in shape. Read on to learn three key ways to help older adults stay heart healthy.

1. Establish an exercise routine

We know that rigorous exercise increases our heart rate and doing strength training benefits our heart health, but any exercise is good exercise.
 
A simple thing seniors can do is get moving. Walking is an excellent exercise that most people can tolerate regardless of their age or their overall health. Another advantage of walking is that it’s very accessible. Walking can be done in most neighborhoods, and when the weather doesn’t cooperate, seniors can walk indoors at shopping malls at no cost. Walking with a friend can also help your loved one stick to a more regular exercise schedule.
 
If your loved one has the financial ability to afford a gym membership, that’s also a great option. Many gyms have programs for seniors that are unique to their exercise abilities and requirements. In addition, some communities have senior centers that offer free or reduced exercise programs.
 
Exercising 30 minutes, three to five times a week, is a great starting point for older adults. They can start with walking or swimming and work their way up to more strenuous activity such as jogging or Zumba. Check with your medical professional and see what exercise they recommend. Your loved one should be sure to listen to their body and doctor’s exercise recommendations and not overdo it.
 
We encourage older adults to focus on the exercise options that are safe, easily available and inexpensive. Physical activity is critical to overall heart health for everyone. A BrightStar Care caregiver can do simple exercises with a client at home, or they can even drive them to a gym or a senior center for a more rigorous workout.

2. Eat a healthy diet

Maintaining a healthy diet also is important for your loved one’s heart health. Recently, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Mediterranean Diet as the No. 1 Best Diet Overall. The Mediterranean Diet encourages the use of olive oil, eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, fish, lean meats, beans, and nuts.
 
The Mediterranean Diet and other heart-healthy diets focus on good fats and antioxidants, which we know have benefits to overall cardiac health. Lean meats and fish are components of the Mediterranean Diet as well as modest alcohol consumption, in particular, red wine. Your loved one will want to be mindful of the negative effects of alcohol consumption and should always consult with their doctor first, but some wine can be good for their heart healthy diet.
 
It’s also important to make good choices at the grocery store. If your loved one needs to buy frozen food for cost or convenience, be mindful to avoid foods that are high in carbohydrates, sugar, fat and sodium.
 
A BrightStar Care nurse can plan a heart-healthy diet for an older adult. Our caregivers can even prepare meals for your loved one if they don’t have the ability or desire to cook themselves.

3. Maintain emotional well-being

Depression, anxiety and stress can also impact heart health. As our loved ones age, they are at greater risk of depression due to multiple common losses in their life, such as loss of family members and friends. Furthermore, many people feel a loss of purpose and function in their life after retirement. Their job provided that function as well as a community, and the change can be quite overwhelming for some people, which can lead to depression.
 
Your loved one may be adjusting to a loss of income because of their retirement. They may also experience a decrease in physical abilities due to general aging or illness, such as arthritis or diabetes, that could make it more difficult to perform daily tasks.
 
The risk of depression in aging is high, and we know that when people are depressed it can lead to heart disease. Being connected to communities that make your loved one feel good such as their church, family and neighborhood are helpful. Encourage your loved one to be engaged in community events, socialize, volunteer, and find support networks.
 
If those things aren’t working, then it’s important to help your loved one get the support they need. They may need professional counseling or medication, or they may benefit from the companionship and support of an in-home caregiver. Treating these components are crucial to your loved one’s overall health and cardiac health.
 
When it comes to heart health, it’s important to look at the big picture. Our BrightStar Care nurses are happy to help keep an eye your loved one’s overall heart health. To learn how our in-home care professionals can help, call 866-618-7827 or contact a BrightStar Care® home care agency near you.