Ten Ways to Boost Heart Health

It’s February – American Heart Month – a time when the nation shines a spotlight on heart health.

While important at any age, taking steps to keep your heart healthy is critical for older people. That’s because, physical changes that happen with age, may increase the risk of heart disease. The good news… there are things you can right now do to protect your heart and lower your risk of disease, including:

Understanding your risk factors

The first step toward heart health is understanding the factors that may increase your risk for heart disease. For example, people aged 65 and older are at greater risk, because aging changes the heart and blood vessels. While age and family history are risk factors you can’t control, many others can be managed – including blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, exercise, and diet.

Controlling blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, so it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly and make the necessary lifestyle changes to keep it in check.

Monitoring cholesterol and triglyceride levels

High levels of cholesterol can clog your arteries and raise your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack. High levels of triglycerides may also raise the risk of coronary artery disease, especially in women. 

Choosing heart-healthy foods

Limit saturated fats, foods that are high in sodium, and added sugars. Also eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Maintaining a healthy weight

The more body fat that you have, the more likely you are to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, and certain cancers.

Quitting smoking

If you do not smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit. Smoking can significantly raise your risk of heart disease and heart attack. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.

Rethinking what you drink

Substitute water for sugary drinks to reduce calories, and drink alcohol in moderation.

Exercising regularly

Regular exercise will strengthen your heart and improve circulation. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight and help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Managing stress

Stress can contribute to high blood press and other heart disease risk factors. Research also suggests that an emotionally upsetting event can serve as a trigger for a heart attack or angina in some people.

Getting enough sleep

Not getting enough sleep or good quality sleep can, over time, raise your risk for chronic health problems – including heart disease. The amount of sleep you need will change as you age but, in general, most adults should aim for 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night. 

The American Heart Association offers many great resources, including information to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and recognize the symptoms of heart attack or stroke. To learn more, visit heart.org.