Ways to Stay Heart Healthy in Honor of American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month — a month-long dedication to awareness, and prevention, of heart disease.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and The Heart Truth celebrate this time and use it as a platform to motivate Americans to adopt the healthy lifestyles that can help prevent heart disease. Because, like seniors, people with poor cardiovascular health are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, the organization’s website notes: “Focusing on your heart health has never been more important.” Fellowship Square could not agree more! In honor of American Health Month and preserving seniors’ quality of life, Fellowship Square offers the following tips for a healthy heart:
Get Checked —
According to the NHLBI, two of the biggest risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. It’s important that these numbers stay in healthy range, as if either gets too high, it can put seniors at risk. The organization suggests people have their blood pressure checked at least once a year, more often for those with high blood pressure (how often can be determined by individual’s health care professionals). High blood cholesterol means the blook contains an unhealthy level of cholesterol. It’s important that cholesterol numbers including “bad” LDL cholesterol and “good” HDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides are determined by a doctor who can then determine each individual’s health plan to manage levels.
Choose Foods for the Heart —
The message has been told time and again — more fruits and veggies, less sugars and saturated and trans fats. Easy enough, right? For those holding tight to the eating patterns of a lifetime, it can be harder than it sounds. So take one step at a time by slowly replacing the following heart healthy foods with saturated or trans fats, sugary or fried foods:
• Leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, etc.
• Apples, bananas, pears, oranges, prunes, etc.
• Whole grains — oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain bread/tortillas
• Fat-free or low-fat dairy — including milk, cheese or yogurt
• Protein rich foods like fish, lean meat, eggs, nuts, seeds or soy products
• Legumes (kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.)
• Oils and foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive or sunflower oil, nut and seed butters, salmon and trout, avocados, walnuts, almonds, and tofu
Get Movin’ —
Maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity go hand in hand when it comes to protecting one’s heart health. A doctor can determine each patient’s healthy BMI (body mass index) to aim for when it comes to “ideal” weight, and physical fitness offers incredible benefits for the heart and entire body, mind and soul! Regular physical activity can lower heart disease factors such as those previously mentioned bad cholesterol levels, increase the good cholesterol levels, and manage high blood pressure, as well as lower stress and improve mental health. Win, win, win!
Lights Out —
Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Adequate rest can help maintain the body’s healthy balance of hormones that make one feel hungry or full (bonus for maintaining that healthy weight), support a healthy immune system, and heal and repair the heart and blood vessels. In contrast, not enough quality sleep can increase risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. For those that have trouble sleeping, create a soothing pre-bed time routine (a soothing bath, a warm cup of tea, reading a book in favor of screen time, etc.).
This February, Fellowship Square encourages seniors to get heart healthy! It’s never too late to take care of one’s heart, and entire body. It’s always important for seniors to speak with their physicians about any lifestyle changes including new diet and exercise programs.