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5 Steps to a Healthier Heart as You Age

Cardiovascular disease is the leading health problem for older adults, and the number one cause of death for both men and women. Also known as heart disease, this umbrella term encompasses conditions caused by a narrowing or blocking of blood vessels. It can lead to a variety of issues, including heart attack.

While genetics and age can both play a role in heart disease, many risk factors are related to lifestyle. In honor of World Heart Day on September 29, we offer these suggestions for lowering your odds of developing cardiovascular disease.

Care for Your Heart with These Five Tips

  1. Follow a heart-smart diet: Diet plays a central role in protecting your heart. As you plan your meals, try to avoid food choices that are high in trans and saturated fats, added sugar, and salt. Focus on foods that contain healthy fats, like salmon and almonds. Other good choices are lean protein, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. If you do better following a structured eating plan, the DASH Diet is one that earns high marks from physicians.
  2. Commit to exercise: Staying active and exercising regularly typically keep blood pressure and cholesterol at safe levels. That in turn lowers the risk of developing heart disease. Seniors can reap the greatest benefit by exercising for at least 150 minutes per week. Walking, biking, swimming, and yoga are all low-impact forms of exercise to discuss with your primary care physician.
  3. Learn to manage stress: Stress is unfortunately common in many people’s daily lives. Over time, it can put your health in jeopardy. It may raise blood pressure and elevate heart rate, which can have a negative impact on the heart. Some people deal with stress by turning to comfort foods, which are typically high in fat and calories. Others might adopt unhealthy habits, such as smoking or consuming too much alcohol. You’ll do your heart a favor by learning healthier ways to cope, such as talking through problems with a friend, journaling, or taking a walk around the block.
  4. Get quality sleep: Sleep is necessary for the heart to function effectively. Lack of quality sleep is linked to a variety of heart problems. If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to overcome sleep issues on your own, talk with your doctor. There might be a medical issue, such as a deviated septum, that is behind your struggles.
  5. Limit alcohol intake: Overconsumption of alcoholic beverages also plays a role in heart disease. People who drink too much are more likely to sleep less and make poor decisions about exercise and diet. While it’s best to discuss with your doctor how much is too much, as a general rule, women should limit drinks to one per day, and men shouldn’t consume more than two.

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