Community Blog

Lifestyle Choices Impact Seniors' Heart Health

By Debbie Humphrey

I am really working hard to keep my New Year’s resolution on track in 2020, which means I am consciously shopping for healthy foods, preparing nutritious meals, and staying on track with my exercise routine.

I, like most people, resolved to eat better and exercise more regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle. I know this is especially important for women over the age of 55, because cardiovascular disease [CVD], impacts this population more than any other disease or condition.

According to Dr Tara Narula, a board certified cardiologist, professor of cardiologic medicine, spokeswoman for the American Heart Association [AHA], and medical contributor to CBS Morning Rounds, statistics emphasize the importance of staying proactive and making smart lifestyle choices when it comes to seniors and heart health:

  • Half of all adults in the United States have some form of heart disease.
  • Cardiovascular Disease is the #1 killer of women ages 55 and up.
  • Over 400,000 women die each year from CVD, more than all cancers, accidents, and diabetes combined.
  • One of three women will die from cardiovascular disease.
  • Only 55% of women even realize they’re at risk.

Since 80% of heart disease cases are preventable, it is recommended that senior women, in particular, understand their risk factors and address them by having conversations with their physician and consider lifestyle changes.

The primary risk factors for CVD include:

  • High Blood Pressure [HBP]
  • Cholesterol
  • Body Mass Index [BMI]
  • Blood Sugar

Moreover, there are additional risk factors for heart disease in senior women based on biological differences:

  • Health during pregnancy [HBP, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, etc]
  • Early menopause
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Breast cancer treated with radiation

Now that we know the risk factors and symptoms of a serious heart condition, we should all examine our lifestyles, have a conversation with our doctors, and make our heart health a priority by adhering to the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7®, to maintain a healthy heart:

  1. Manage Blood Pressure
  2. Control Cholesterol
  3. Reduce Blood Sugar
  4. Exercise/Get Active
  5. Eat Better
  6. Lose Weight
  7. Stop Smoking

Five of the Simple 7 include food and diet. Everyone can improve their heart and overall health by shopping for nutritious foods that contain vitamins, minerals and fiber. One of my referral partners, aPlaceforMom [APFM], has 7 suggestions for grocery shopping to help seniors make good decisions before they hit the check-out lane.

  • Purchase colorful produce. Adults require 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and they are naturally low in calories and packed with vitamins minerals and fiber. APFM senior nutrition expert Heather Schwartzsays, “When getting ready to head to the check-out line, check the basket to make sure you have a variety of colored fruits and vegetables to ensure you get the rainbow of benefits each color has to offer. Colors indicate a concentration of a specific nutrient; for example, tomatoes are dense in lutein, which is great for your heart and eyes.”
  • Avoid high-fat meat and dairy. Selections of “loin” cuts, like sirloin and tenderloin, tend to be lower in fat. Choose skinless chicken and turkey, and cuts of meat that have less visible fat. The best choices include fatty fish, like salmon and trout that provide omega 3 fatty acids, which help lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Choose nuts and high-fiber foods. Fiber-rich foods, like beans, fruits, vegetables and whole grains help lower cholesterol and make you feel “full” which can promote weight loss. Moreover, studies have shown nuts like almonds and walnuts help improve heart health.
  • Bypass butter. Adults should eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day, and avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Heather Schwartz suggests, “Consider replacing butter with a more healthful spread like Smart Balance, Brummel and Brown, Benechol or Promise. Unlike butter, they have healthy fats in them and contain plant sterols which may help lower bad cholesterol.”
  • Check nutrition labels. Prepared and processed foods are often loaded with sodium and hidden sugars. Be diligent about checking these amounts when buying groceries. Research from “Agriculture Economics” discovered people who read nutrition labels are generally slimmer than those who don’t.
  • Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are fine. “Remember that frozen fruits and vegetables have the same vitamins and minerals in them, though their prices may be radically different,” suggests Heather. “This knowledge makes keeping the kitchen stocked with cholesterol and blood pressure lowering foods a little easier. Canned fruits and veggies offer similar benefits, though choose unsalted or unsweetened varieties when possible.”
  • Don’t rush into major dietary changes. Start with baby steps when making dietary changes. Trying to do everything at once can be overwhelming. You will likely be more successful if you gradually incorporate these tips into your grocery shopping and meal preparation to promote cardiovascular health.

For seniors suffering from heart disease, activities of daily living, like grocery shopping and meal preparation, can be a real challenge. Home Helpers® employs compassionate caregivers who are skilled at providing in-home care and support for seniors with chronic conditions such as COPD, congestive heart failure, heart disease, diabetes, cerebral vascular diseases, Alzheimer’s, dementia and more. I am happy to schedule a FREE Consultation to assess specific needs and match the perfect caregiver to encourage better heart health, minimize challenges, and improve your overall quality of life.

We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠

Sources:

CBS Morning Rounds

aPlaceforMom

American Heart Association