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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on April 3rd, 2014

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4 Weekly Activities to Improve Senior Heart Health

assisted living | health tips for seniors | 60-day stay trial | heart health | Aging & Caregiving

0067 EFP121102 141226 UMH Bishop Wicke CO 01 resized 600Approximately 715,000 Americans suffer from heart attacks every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease remains the country’s leading cause of death for both men and women.

While these statistics may seem overwhelming, there is hope: people can reduce their risk of heart disease by taking control of their cardiovascular health. While some risk factors, such as age and family history, can’t be changed, others can be mitigated by beneficial lifestyle changes.

Help your aging loved one reduce his or her risk of heart disease with these four weekly heart disease prevention activities.

1. Shop Smart

The American Heart Association lists eating well as one of its Simple 7 steps for optimal heart health. This can be harder than it sounds, particularly for seniors. Begin by reviewing the foods your loved one is eating to determine whether they fall into the “heart healthy” category. When planning weekly shopping trips, help your loved one make a list which includes plenty of vitamin-rich, low-calorie superfoods.

Make sure your loved one’s grocery store cart and dinner plate display an assortment of colorful fruits and vegetables, fiber and lean proteins, allowing them to “eat the rainbow”. Encourage your loved one to read nutrition levels, looking for foods which have less than 250 mg of sodium per serving toward the recommended 1,500 mg daily recommendations.

2. Move It

While the benefits of physical activity are undeniable, many people still have difficulty incorporating regular exercise into their lives. While you may not be able to go take a walk with your aging loved one every day, a stroll through the neighborhood once a week can help increase his or her comfort level and set them on the path toward the recommended daily exercise requirement of 30 minutes a day. Even gardening, raking the lawn, and walking the dog count!

Your participation helps provide critical motivation, even five minutes makes a difference. It can also be helpful to seek out fitness partners within your love one’s community, as well as classes offered by many senior living communities, which provide both physical exercise and social activity. Be sure to get approval from your loved one's health care practitioner before beginning an exercise program.

3. Sleep Matters

Everyone loves a good night’s sleep, but this can get more difficult as we age. Lack of sleep is more than just an inconvenience; it can raise your risk of a heart attack, as well as other conditions, such as obesity, depression and diabetes. Help your aging loved one prioritize sleep by setting a schedule for going to bed and waking up, as most adults require a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. Make sure the bedroom environment is dark and temperate. Also worth considering is the addition of an outdoor fitness component to any routine, which can help promote healthier sleep.

Review your aging loved one’s sleep schedule weekly. If he or she is waking up several times during the night, or wakes up with a dry mouth, sore throat or headache, consult with his or her healthcare practitioner. Memory lapses and learning difficulties may also indicate insufficient sleep.

4. Blood Pressure Management

A third of the country’s adults have high blood pressure and 50 percent of them don’t have it under control, according to the CDC. High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease, and is the nation’s leading cause of death. While monitoring blood pressure is an effective way to gain control, frequent trips to the doctor aren’t always possible. The American Heart Association recommends the increased use of home blood pressure monitoring.

This simple and affordable practice can have substantial heart health benefits. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) concluded that people who used home blood pressure monitors had more immediate and ongoing success with lowering blood pressure than those who did not.

Pharmacies sell high quality home blood pressure monitors for less than $100, and some insurance companies will even cover the cost. Your loved one's healthcare practitioner can help provide education about its use. While weekly measurements may be necessary for maintenance, experts recommend twice-daily checking at first.

Many senior centers or local senior living communities offer free blood pressure clinics on a weekly or monthly basis. Take advantage of these free services if home monitoring is not a workable option.

Help your aging loved one adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle by incorporating these four practices into their weekly schedule. When combined, they offer powerful prevention against heart disease and optimal senior heart health.

Key Takeaways

  • Help your loved one shop and eat smarter by encouraging them to “eat the rainbow”.
  • Join your loved one in exercise, and encourage them to check out senior fitness classes within their local communities.
  • Review your loved one’s sleep habits and promote a healthful sleep environment.
  • Routine home monitoring can improve blood pressure management and promote heart health.
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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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