Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and many of us can coyly cop to not doing what we know we should to keep our hearts healthy, even knowing the dangers. Many times, people don’t realize they have heart disease until they experience a heart attack, arrhythmia or other condition.
Even without making major changes to your lifestyle, there are steps you can take, starting today. If you pick just one of these activities to start on this week, you’ll be that much closer to a healthier, happier heart!
Work on your diet
Almost everyone has room for improvement in their diet, which plays an important role in heart health. A heart-healthy diet does not have to be one of deprivation. Our hearts love (and benefit from) foods like leafy green vegetables, berries, nuts, tomatoes and dark chocolate. For an even better heart-healthy diet, cut down on salt intake as you work on a meal plan for your family.
Regular exercise is an important factor of heart health at any age. You and your senior loved one should aim to achieve 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week. This can include a series of walks around the mall or in your neighborhood, water aerobics, or chair exercises. You can adapt almost any activity to meet your senior loved one’s mobility level while you join in the exercise at your own level.
Catch quality ZZZs
A recent study showed a lack of good sleep can increase the risk of heart disease by as much as 141%. To set yourself up for a good night’s rest, incorporate a regular nighttime routine into your daily schedule. Settling down with a soothing cup of tea, shutting down screens and practicing mindful breathing are all good starts!
Know your history
It may be easier to make lifestyle changes when you know you’re at an increased risk for heart disease because of your family history. Become aware of your inherited risk factors for your heart. Sometimes the simplest way of discovering this is also the best: a conversation with your family members.
Jot down your thoughts
Expressive writing can do wonders for your health. Writing down your thoughts, reflecting on your day, or venting your frustrations in a safe, private place like a personal journal contributes to a stronger immune system and lower levels of anxiety. Journaling can help you sort out your thoughts and your priorities, practice gratitude, and record memories you’ll be glad you have when your loved one is gone.
Get a blood test
The blood holds many important clues and signatures of your health and well-being. Even if you’re feeling fine, a comprehensive blood panel of these important blood tests for women and men can give you an early look at things that may cause trouble down the road.
Know the signs
It’s incredibly scary to think of witnessing a loved one’s heart attack, or experiencing one yourself. But early intervention can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to a heart attack or congestive heart failure. Know the signs so you don’t ignore or downplay critical symptoms.
Cutting out stress from your life is easier said than done, but there are plenty of things you can try to minimize stress until you find something that really works for you. It may also be one of the most important things you can do for your health. It’s said, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” which means you’ve got to find a way to create peace and joy in your own life if you wish to bring it to the lives of those you care for.
Talk to your doctor
Your doctor is a wealth of information on heart-healthy living. As a caregiver, taking care of you can sometimes fall to last on your list. But making time to visit your doctor regularly – even if you’re feeling well – can save time and money down the road. Use the time to tell them anything that’s been out of the ordinary with your physical or mental health. They may find a pattern in symptoms or behavior you’re unable to detect because you’re too close to the situation.
Monitor your blood pressure
Measuring your blood pressure will tell you how hard your heart is working to pump blood throughout your body. If your blood pressure is too high (hypertension), you may experience severe headaches, chronic fatigue or difficulty breathing. If your blood pressure is too low (hypotension), you could become dizzy or find it hard to concentrate.
It’s never too late to start taking better care of your heart. Show your heart some love and start practicing some of these activities today. They’ll soon become habits that won’t seem like any extra effort at all. If you need some motivation, new research has found making these healthy lifestyle choices can add as much as 20 disease-free years to your life!