Cardiovascular disease is America’s leading cause of death. One in three adults — that’s one person every 38 seconds — dies of causes related to heart disease. The risks go up as we grow older, so if you’re concerned about you or your loved one’s heart health, it’s always a good idea to see how you can improve your odds. The steps you can take are simple, but can also pose some challenges. Princeton Health Care Center explains.
As we age, our bodies change and don’t work the same way they did when we were younger. We lose muscle mass and bone mass, and our bodies don’t burn calories like they used to. The picture is further complicated when you don’t have as much of an appetite as you once did, or if your fixed income makes it harder to keep a full pantry.
Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t easy, but it’s no less important for that. Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, and also leaves you more prone to diabetes. The added weight also taxes your muscles, joints, and bones. If your physician is telling you you’re overweight, start taking steps to get back in shape.
Our bodies are hard-wired to love foods that don’t love us back. Sugar, salt, starches, and fats may make for great comfort foods — who doesn’t love fresh-baked cookies, or a massive helping of mashed potatoes and gravy, after all — but they’re not doing us any favors. High-fat foods contain artery-clogging cholesterol. High-salt foods raise blood pressure. Starches turn to sugar, and sugar packs on pounds and risks diabetes.
Eating healthy foods doesn’t have to be complicated. Substitute complex carbohydrates like whole grains for simple carbs like refined sugar. Eat more vegetables, making sure you’re getting a rainbow of colors (yes, seriously — it’s a sign you’re varying the nutrients you get). Get enough dairy for bone-boosting calcium, and lean protein for satiety, but make sure you avoid fats.
If space and/or money are at a premium, remember that canned and frozen veggies are just as nutritious as the ones bought from the farmer’s market — and often less expensive. If you could use a bit more help, these tips from the American Heart Association can help make grocery shopping easier.
Are you getting enough exercise? If you’re feeling achy, or if your body snaps, crackles, and pops like a bowl of Rice Krispies when you get up to answer the door, you may not move as much as you used to. Get out and exercise! Inactivity can be as harmful to your body as smoking. You don’t need to train for a marathon, mind you. Even a moderate level of physical activity benefits heart health, decreases pain levels, and makes you happier and more alert. As a bonus, it also helps if you’re trying to shrink your waistline or reinforce those new healthy eating habits.
If you’re looking at this list and it’s dawning on you that you aren’t doing any of these things right now, don’t despair. But don’t try doing everything all at once, either. Radically changing your diet, physical activity levels, and lifestyle at the same time can leave you feeling deprived and grumpy. Incorporate changes gradually, and understand that each small step in the right direction will build momentum that helps you over the long term.
Find a Friend
Friends do your heart good in more ways than one. Having someone along for your journey to heart health is always a good idea. You can keep each other company on long walks and workouts, reinforce each other’s healthy eating habits, and cheer on each other’s weight loss victories.
Which brings us to one last point. If your current health situation makes it hard to address your heart health goals, consider Princeton Health Care Center. Our physical therapy and pain management services can return you to mobility and the life you love, so you can live longer, healthier, and happier. Contact us today!