World Heart Day is the World Heart Federation’s largest awareness raising campaign every year. One of the primary groups of people the Federation is trying to communicate information to is seniors. I’m sure you have heard about many different types of ailments and diseases, but cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be the leading cause of death around the world. 66% or two-thirds of deaths related to CVD are in the senior population. Small heart-conscious changes can help prevent or manage CVD, and also improve your overall health and quality of life.
Staying active is one of the top recommendations for maintaining overall fitness, so it isn’t a surprise that exercise is important for heart health. The heart is like any other muscle in your body; regular exercise strengthens it, and lack of exercise leaves it prone to weakness. The amount of exercise recommended for seniors is enough to commit to 30 minutes of various types of activity each day. For individuals 65 years or older, 150 minutes of moderate cardio activity per week and two days of strength training is enough to keep their body in good physical health. Another option for activity is 75 minutes of vigorous cardio activity per week and two days of strength training. Physical activity can be sports and activities you enjoy like tennis or basketball, or activities like ballroom dancing or kayaking. Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
I’m sure you are aware that smoking or secondhand smoke isn’t good for your health. It isn’t as well known that the human body begins reversing the consequences of smoking almost immediately. Some people believe they are too old to quit; why quit in their later years? What these people don’t know is that 20 minutes following the last cigarette, heart rate returns to more average levels. Within 12 hours, the body has processed out almost all of the carbon monoxide present in the blood. Two to three weeks after quitting smoking, heart attack risk drops dramatically, and the lungs begin working more efficiently. Statistically speaking, seniors are less likely than other age groups to choose to quit smoking. However, once they choose to quit, they are the most likely to succeed.
Seniors are one of the groups that have special dietary considerations. In order to improve or maintain your quality of life and heart health, good nutrition should be a daily choice. While obesity is a concern for the population at large, being underweight is also a concern for seniors. Due to the many medications that can decrease appetite, seniors are at a greater risk for malnutrition. Eating whole grains, heart-healthy fats, and lean sources of protein can drastically lower the risk for heart disease, and a whole host of other illnesses and diseases.
Many of these changes can be made in a gradual manner. Your entire pantry doesn’t have to be thrown out, but try whole wheat or quinoa pasta instead of the white flour pasta. Changes in your fitness program should be made slowly, so if just beginning to exercise, start with two 20 minute walks and one day of full body strength training. The recommendations explored here are not all or nothing. Every little bit counts, and it is never too late to start. Consider the 101 year old sprinter that has broken race records this year. Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins started running last year at 100 years old. This year she has broken a couple of 100 meter dash records, and the year isn’t even over yet. She says she did it for her health and her independence.
World Heart Day is on September 29th, and people around the world will be considering how they can improve their heart health. What changes will you make to improve your heart health?
Boca Homecare Website Services. (2013, November 12). Nutrition for The Elderly – The Must Eat for a Healthy Heart. Retrieved from Boca Homecare Website Services: http://www.bocahomecareservices.com/blog/nutrition-elderly-eat-healthy-heart/
Buckland, A., & Connolly, M. (2005, November 01). Age-related differences in smoking cessation advice and support given to patients hospitalised with smoking-related illness. Age and Aging, 34(6), 639-642. Retrieved from Oxford Academic/ Age and Aging: https://academic.oup.com/ageing/article/34/6/639/40501/Age-related-differences-in-smoking-cessation
National Institutes of Health. (2014, June). Quitting Smoking for Older Adults. Retrieved from NIH Senior Health: https://nihseniorhealth.gov/quittingsmoking/quittingwhenyoureolder/01.html
NHS Choices. (2015, November 10). Physical activity guidelines for older adults. Retrieved from NHS Choices: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-older-adults.aspx
Payne, M. (2017, July 15). ‘I missed my nap for this’: 101-year-old sprinter breaks 100-meter dash record. Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2017/07/15/i-missed-my-nap-for-this-101-year-old-sprinter-breaks-100-meter-dash-record/?utm_term=.95d279f2e618
World Heart Federation. (2017). What is CVD? Retrieved from World Heart Day: https://www.worldheartday.org/what-is-cvd/