February is National Heart Month, and it is essential to develop a working knowledge of conditions related to the heart, to realize the importance of senior health, how to stay heart-healthy as a senior, and how Baxter Senior Living communities and caregivers can support seniors with staying heart-healthy.
Seniors At Increased Risk For Heart-Related Conditions
Hearts have a natural rhythm, and the pumping is an involuntary bodily function. However, with the aging process, the mechanism that beats can lose cells, and steadily slow down. Over time, the heart can become more significant in size, and its walls thicken, making its maximum capacity smaller. Our hearts can only hold a certain amount of blood and can fill up slower. When a doctor is listening to your heart, the beats may be slightly abnormal and can be traced back to heart disease. Also, the heart’s primary artery becomes thicker and stiffer through age and makes the heart work harder to achieve normal functioning.
As people age, seniors become more likely to develop heart disease and other medical conditions than younger people. When there is excess plaque build-up in the heart, only a select amount of blood to flow through, and that in turn causes one type of heart disease. In total, there are ten different types of heart disease. However, there are several underlying causes that lead to heart disease that are preventable and correctable. Some of them include smoking, weight management issues, long periods of inactivity, and dietary issues.
Another heart-related condition found in seniors is (congestive) heart failure. Congestive heart failure is also related to the build-up of plaque in the arteries. With significantly reduced blood flow, that can lead to a heart attack. An essential measure of preventing heart failure is to control and manage other conditions surrounding the heart like hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary artery disease, diabetes, and obesity. Heart failure is the second wave of stress on your heart that usually follows after certain other conditions have made your heart at-risk for further damage without proper treatment, medications, and self-care.
How Can Seniors Stay Heart-Healthy?
As we age, we are at a higher risk of heart-related conditions, especially if the heart is weakened, plaque builds up in the arteries, appetites and diets can slip, and we may become less active. Some conditions that affect the heart leave irreversible damage behind; however, there are many measures that you can take today to reduce your risk for developing these conditions in the first place. Our Anchorage Senior Living caregivers will help you manage your medications, chronic conditions, and encourage you to practice healthier habits.
Firstly, making sure that you are exercising regularly is essential. Keeping all of your muscles, including your heart, active is the best way to fight off and prevent atrophy from occurring. By exercising, you can keep your heart active so that it can efficiently pump blood throughout your body. You can increase your heart and breathing rates by doing household chores, climbing stairs, walking, jogging, dancing, bicycling, or engaging in a variety of other residential fitness programs that Baxter Senior Living encourages. Also, when you exercise, you can lower your blood pressure, say goodbye to bad cholesterol, welcome healthy cholesterol, maintain a healthy weight, lower your stress levels, decrease inflammation, boost your body’s ability to improve the healthy consumption and use of your oxygen, enhance the functioning of your parasympathetic nervous system, and feel happier and more optimistic. Exercise can also help you quit smoking and using substances that may be harmful to your body.
Avoid Smoking and Using Substances
Secondly, if you smoke, use any recreational or hard drugs, or have alcohol issues, then you are recommended to stop those habits as soon as possible. Smoking increases your blood pressure, can cause abnormal heart rhythms, and these all add more stress to your hardworking heart. Alcoholism leads to the same issues and can cause cardiomyopathy. Most illegal and/had drugs have harmful effects on your heart and can also lead to heart attacks and other heart-related problems. Do not take any drugs or medications unless they are prescribed to you, or approved by a physician for usage.
Maintain a Nutritious Diet
Thirdly, maintaining a well-balanced diet is critical to an individual’s heart health. Here is a list of the top foods that we encourage our residents to eat more to maintain a happy and healthy heart:
- Leafy greens (vitamin K, minerals, nitrates)
- Whole grains (reduce bad cholesterol)
- Berries (antioxidants
- Fat-rich fish (Omega-3 fatty acids)
- Walnuts (fiber, reduces bad cholesterol, can lower BP)
- Beans (reduces blood triglycerides, and cholesterol)
- Dark chocolate (antioxidants, lowers the risk of plaque buildup in arteries)
Dietary changes can significantly reduce your risk factors for certain heart-related illnesses. For example, if you are a devout coffee drinker and drink more than 2 cups per day, switching to decaf can help with your heart, or limiting it to two, can have the same effect. Switching from store-bought ice cream with unhealthy ingredients, to an all-natural brand with a higher concentration of dark chocolate will boost your heart health.
How Baxter Senior Living Will Keep Your Alaskan Heart Healthy
One of the benefits of living here at the premiere assisted living facility in Alaska, is that Baxter Senior Living caregivers create an individualized senior health care plan for each resident to ensure their medical, recreational, and social needs are prioritized and fulfilled. Our dietary team has a wide variety of heart-friendly options for residents to choose from, with special considerations for our residents with dietary restrictions.
Our assisted living facility in Anchorage, AK also has on-site exercise areas and designated walking paths for residents to access on their own time. We also have specific exercise times for people to gather with a designated trainer that guides you through workout sessions. Our caregivers can also participate in this process by inviting and encouraging residents to explore and get out of their rooms, and actively do the exercises along with you when their duties allow them at that time. You are more than welcome to attend. Now, let’s get moving!