Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the US and the leading cause of disability.
Of the estimated 83.6 million people affected by heart disease, 42.2 million are over 60 years old.
For the 60–79-year-old age group, 70.2% are men and 70.9% are women. For the 80+ year-old age group, 83.0% are men and 87.1% are women.
The older our seniors get, the more likely they will be to develop heart disease.
Unfortunately, heart disease can occur at any age, making it important for caregivers to look out for themselves too.
Once affecting largely men, heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks are rapidly increasing in numbers of women.
Two-thirds of women who have heart attacks fail to fully recover. In part because women have heart attacks at older ages than do men, they’re more likely to die from them within a few weeks.
On February 3 we wear red to spread the word that heart disease and stroke can be preventable with lifestyle changes!
In addition to wearing red, there are many things that you and your senior loved one can do, starting today, to help prevent heart disease and lower your risk.
Treatable Risk Factors
There are many risk factors associated with developing heart disease.
There are some over which we have control and can impact with lifestyle changes and others over which we have no control.
Things like heredity or family history, being male, menopause, or age are factors that are unmodifiable.
The following are risk factors we can modify without a great deal of expense and with small lifestyle changes. Even a small change can make a big difference!
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- Excessive Alcohol Intake
- Physical Inactivity
Tips Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Here are things your senior and you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease:
- Get checked out by your doctor! Know your numbers so you know where to start to make changes. Knowledge is power!
- Reduce the overall fat in your diet. Bake, broil and roast your protein foods. Reduce fried foods, eliminate sources of trans fat, and switch to unsaturated fats.
- Portion control to avoid obesity. Eat healthy quantities without overdoing it. ½ plate vegetables, ¼ plate protein and ¼ plate of starch. Skip the second helpings to control calories. A weight loss of 5%-10% of your body weight can greatly reduce your risk.
- Stress management techniques and coping mechanisms such as avoiding your stressors, keeping a journal, learning to say no, reducing your “to do” list, expressing yourself, taking a warm bath, lighting scented candles, listening to your favorite music, working in your garden or reading a good book can help you reduce stress. We all feel stress at times but ongoing stress can harm our bodies and lead to reactions such as overeating, high blood pressure and smoking.
- Control your blood pressure by reducing your salt intake. New recommendations of 1500 mg each day will help you lower high blood pressure. Ditch the salt shaker and use other seasonings to add flavor. Read food labels to avoid high salt foods. Take your prescribed medications as directed. More than 73% of women ages 65 to 74 have high blood pressure.
- Keep your blood sugar in control. Follow your treatment plan as directed by your healthcare team.
- Quit smoking!
- Reduce your intake of alcohol to help your overall health. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure and lead to excessive calorie intake.
- Get moving! Take a walk or a swim or an activity you enjoy. Keeping your body moving with regular moderate to vigorous activity will pay off big dividends in your weight, blood pressure and stress.
Exercises for Senior Adults
The American Heart Association recommends that seniors follow this plan:
complete 8-10 exercises with 6-8 repetitions (per exercise/per side) 2 days a week
This amount and duration of specific exercises has been shown to improve heart health.
Some of the exercises they prefer for seniors include:
- Leg raises
- Arm raises
- Balance exercises
- Chest stretches
- Abdominal exercises
- Leg stretches
- Tricep extensions
Here is an infographic that shows you how to do each one safely!
Check out this personal heart disease risk calculator from the Mayo Clinic to help you and your senior manage your health and reduce your senior’s risk.
You can help your senior live a healthier life and keep yourself healthy to care for your loved one in the future.