As February comes to a close, let’s continue to practice healthy heart behaviors so you and your loved one can be proactive in staying active and building a healthy heart.
Consider these practical ways to keep your heart in great shape.

MINIMIZE STRESS

Stress can amplify heart disease risks, especially if it is continuous in one’s life. For seniors, this can occur unknowingly. It’s not unusual to experience changes in health, relationships, and other life events as we age. If we don’t pay attention to developing healthy coping behaviors our heart health can suffer. Having a shoulder to lean on can provide an important outlet for stress relief. Minimize stressful situations and environments to help seniors cope. This may include identifying someone your loved one can confide and talk to, such as a counselor or close friend.

Finding healthy outlets to relieve stress are easier than you think. Watching a light comedy or listening to upbeat music all help to shift energy in a positive way. Take a walk when things get overwhelming, listen to a favorite song, look at vacation photos, or just take some deep breaths. Teaching and reminding our loved ones to do things like this can help to relieve pressure. It’s also important to pay attention to their surroundings. Seniors who are living in messy conditions might also be stressed about falling or just upset about the mess. Take into consideration what your senior’s stressors might be and get rid of them to lower their heart disease risk.

EXERCISE REGULARLY

Participating in light physical activity is a great way for seniors to maintain a healthy heart. This can be as simple as walking in or outdoors. Walking for 10 minutes, for example, three times a day will meet the daily standard healthy allotment of 30 minutes of light exercise.

Check with your loved one’s doctor to identify their best exercise regimen. You may be surprised to find that it may also include strengthening exercises. It has been medically proven that lifting weights is one of the best things you can do to strengthen your heart. Including seniors in light lifting exercise is simple. This could involve putting away groceries or other lighter items. Participating in activities like this can also help seniors feel included and appreciated; another source of stress relief.

Consult with your healthcare professional to ensure safety and enjoy becoming and staying fit no matter what method or regime of exercise your senior loved one engages in. The important thing is to begin activity and stick with it.

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY DIET

As we age, our nutritional needs start to change. Some seniors may not realize that their aging body requires different types of nutrients. Thankfully there are many resources available to help us understand how to fuel our bodies with good nutrition. The National Council on Aging, for example, has a great nutritional guide for seniors. Use this to help identify easy and nutritional ways to plan meals and shop for groceries. As much as possible, include your senior loved one in meal planning and shopping. Doing activities like this can help to educate them on foods that are good for their heart. These include more fruits and veggies, less salt and high-fat dairy products.

WATCH FOR SIGNS OF DEPRESSION

A risk factor for heart disease that is often overlooked is depression. Be mindful of the reaction of your loved ones to changes in their environment and routine. Observe changing moods, body language, and other subtle comments they may express. Check in with your elderly loved one often about their feelings. Make sure they have plenty of opportunities to socialize with others, visit with friends and family, and have opportunities to enjoy life. If signs of depression surface, connect with a health professional to garner support and a plan for help. These signs include:

Lack of desire to socialize
Withdrawing from close family and friends
Trouble concentrating
Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, guilty, or unhappy
Thoughts of worthlessness
Constant fatigue
Apparent change in weight loss or gain
Change in sleeping habits
Consistent sickness

As our loved ones grow older, we want the best for them in all aspects of life. A healthy heart helps to ensure their ability to enjoy the changes in their life without added complications. With a little added attention, you can help your loved one to live up to healthy heart standards and enjoy each day with more energy and joy.