Tips for Seniors to Lose Weight and Get Heart-Healthy

February 14th, 2018

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

As our loved ones age, we encourage them to worry less and live more. That can mean traveling, spending time with family and friends, and volunteering, just to name a few. To enjoy an optimum quality of life, seniors also must make heart-healthy diet and exercise choices.

A healthier heart can help your loved one stay active longer and feel better during their golden years. Let’s take a look at a few ways to help someone you love stay active safely and how a healthy diet (with a few treats!) can help your loved one achieve and maintain a healthy weight at any age.

Diet: The No. 1 Factor for Successful Weight Loss

Eating healthier helps with more than just weight loss. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins at any age can improve heart health and general wellness and can reduce risks associated with diabetes and high blood pressure.
 
Most seniors can start eating healthier without a doctor’s review. However, it’s a good idea to touch base with the doctor if your loved one has a chronic condition that requires a special diet or medication. Dietary changes might affect how well medications work or could cause functional changes in the body. Some of these conditions include:

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Heart failure

Once the doctor approves, a local BrightStar Care home health nurse can help with recommendations for foods that account for the senior’s underlying health issues. We often recommend that clients eat a balanced diet with reduced intake of sugar and sodium. Seniors also might try swapping saturated “bad” fats, such as vegetable oil and processed meats, with unsaturated “good” fats such as olive oil and avocado.
 
However, it’s OK to have treats once in a while, even if your loved one has diabetes or a heart condition. Strict diet plans often are tough to stick with and can result in additional weight gain if the senior feels frustrated and gives up. Moderation is key. Help your loved one make healthy choices most days of the week and enjoy a candy or pastry treat on special occasions.

Exercise: Heart-Healthy Activities for Seniors

Physical activity is extremely beneficial for seniors, particularly those working toward a heart-healthy weight. However, activities you enjoy or that your loved one once did might not be safe or doable based on mobility limitations or health conditions.
 
If your loved one enjoys jogging or walking, encourage them to continue their sport if their doctor feels it’s safe. Most exercises can be modified to reduce wear and tear on the joints. For example, many adults and seniors enjoy aqua-jogging or water aerobics. Participants can get the benefits of “land” exercises without bearing as much weight on the ankles and knees. This might be a fun activity for you and your loved one to try together – double the fun!
 
Active seniors should have supportive, breathable footwear tailored for their sport. This is especially important for individuals with joint issues or diabetes. Blisters and sore feet can quickly escalate into infections and gait changes that can cause back and joint pain. Proper shoes also can help prevent falls and twisted ankles by providing better balance.
 
Modified exercises also can benefit seniors who have arthritis or mobility problems, are just starting to exercise or use a walker or wheelchair. While these exercises might not lead to weight loss, they can help improve flexibility, muscle tone, and general emotional well-being:

  • Chair aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Resistance band exercises

If your loved one has to stay in bed much of the day, it’s important to keep them moving within their limits. A home health nurse or caregiver can demonstrate stretches and light resistance exercises to improve circulation, reduce the risk of bed sores, and help the senior feel more active. The National Institutes of Health have a great list of resources to help seniors to stay actively safely. Learn more.

What About Loved Ones Who Are Underweight?

Obesity is a national health crisis for people of all ages in the U.S. However, some seniors lose weight without trying, which can be just as unhealthy as being overweight. Unintended weight loss could signal an underlying health issue such as: 

  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Poor nutrition
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing 

Talk to your loved one’s doctor if you’re concerned about unintended weight loss. Seniors who are underweight are at greater risk of malnourishment, which means their bodies don’t get the proper nutrients to fight infections or maintain bone and organ health. They’re also at greater risk for falls and hospitalization.
 
Medication management can be tricky for people who are underweight because many drug dosages are based on weight. If a patient’s weight changes substantially, the dosage might be too high, which can result in dizziness, fainting or falls.
 
Related reading: The Importance of Medication Management for Seniors

Community Support for a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Adults of every age can benefit from the support and accountability of a workout buddy or group. Many communities offer indoor exercise programs for seniors at little-to-no cost, such as mall-walking groups or community-center fitness classes.
 
This interactivity is especially beneficial for seniors with mobility limitations. Getting out of the house and making friends can have a positive effect on your loved one’s mood and quality of life.
 
Whether your loved one wants to stay active for weight loss, heart health, or social reasons, our team is here to help. Call 866-618-7827 or contact a BrightStar Care® home care agency near you to learn how our loved one might benefit from in-home care support services.