Heart disease is a big concern for seniors. Over 70% of people over 60 have heart disease, and it’s the number one cause of death for people over 65. Every senior should therefore be thinking about heart disease and what they can do to reduce their risks. Even if you’re in the minority of seniors that don’t have heart disease now, it doesn’t hurt to make an effort to stay that way.
A lot of the advice for reducing your risk of heart disease is the same advice you hear about being healthy in general, but it’s all especially important to heed as you get older. To live longer and improve your quality of life while you do, take these ten steps that reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Quit smoking.
Hopefully most people reading this have already taken this step (or avoided starting altogether). If not, then it’s one of the most important things you can do for your health in general and in particular for reducing your risk of heart disease.
No matter how old you are and how long you’ve been smoking, you can still get significant health benefits from quitting now. Within weeks of quitting, your risk of heart disease begins to drop.
The government’s developed resources specifically for people over 60 trying to quit. It’s hard to do, but it’s worth taking the steps you need to cut out the habit altogether and make your remaining years healthier.
- Start exercising.
Exercising can be a hard habit to start at any age, but with the aches and pains and growing worry about injuries that come with age, it can be that much harder to get started.
But exercising helps with balance, strengthens your muscles, and helps ward off a lot of the diseases and illnesses that make life harder for seniors. And there are a number of exercises seniors can try that don’t come with a high risk of injury, like water exercises and taking daily walks.
Figure out what type of exercise you’ll feel comfortable doing and commit to making it a regular habit.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
You’ve heard your whole life that you should have a diet high in fruits and vegetables, but it was probably easier to let that advice slide when you were younger. Now it matters more than ever.
Identify the fruits and veggies you like best and work them into your diet. Look for tasty recipes that incorporate fruits and vegetables or, if you’re not much of a cook, research food delivery options that focus on healthy meals. Once you get into the habit of eating more fruits and vegetables, you’ll find it easier and easier to find meals you really enjoy that are also good for you.
- Eat less red meat.
Steak and potatoes may sound like an all-American meal choice, but it’s not one you should stick with as you age. Cut out the red meat and switch to healthier meats like fish and chicken, or try out being vegetarian for a while. You’ll both feel and be healthier.
- Eat less sugar and drink fewer sodas.
Most health experts say you don’t have to worry too much about natural sugars like those found in fruit, but the added sugars that show up in sodas, sweets, and most juices are another story. Get in the habit of checking ingredient labels to spot added sugars (hint: they sometimes go by other names). Wherever possible, go for the alternative that doesn’t include added sugar.
And if you’re a soda drinker, now’s a good time to cut down or quit sodas altogether. Figure out another beverage to turn to when you feel like drinking something with more flavor than water. Give flavored teas or sparkling water a try.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
One thing your soda alternative shouldn’t be is alcohol. You don’t necessarily have to quit drinking all alcohol outright, but you should be careful about how much you drink.
Research suggests that a little bit of alcohol probably won’t hurt you in terms of heart disease, and may even help you. But more than three drinks a day does damage the heart and can lead to hypertension and stroke.
If you’re not a drinker now, most doctors recommend not starting. If you are, make a point to limit how much you drink for the sake of your heart and overall health.
- Pay attention to saturated fat.
Some fats are worse for you than others and the saturated fat commonly found in foods like beef, pork, butter, and cheese is high on that list. Eating foods that are high in saturated fats results in increased cholesterol and higher risks of heart disease and stroke.
Food labels are required to break down the percentage of fat included in a product that’s saturated fat, so check out the labels of the food you consider before you buy to help you cut out the snacks and meals that are the biggest offenders in this category.
- Take aspirin – but only if your doctor approves.
For people who are at risk of heart disease, taking an aspirin each day can reduce the risk of a heart attack. It’s not a perfect solution. For some people, taking too much aspirin causes bleeding in the gut. But if your doctor agrees that your risk of heart disease merits it, then it could help you prevent a heart attack. Ask your doctor what they recommend.
- Try to keep your stress levels to a minimum.
Any time someone provides the advice to “reduce stress” it can almost feel like a joke. None of us chooses to feel stressed out, but life always seems to throw stressful experiences and pressures our way. Nonetheless, stress contributes to heart disease and finding ways to reduce the amount of stress you’re feeling is important to maintaining heart health.
Look into techniques like yoga and mindfulness meditation to help you manage your stress and consider if there are any obligations you have now that you can let go of if they start to feel like too much. Stress is inevitably a part of every life at some point, but you can find ways to lessen its effect on yours.
- Talk to your doctor.
If you’re at risk of heart disease, one of the most important things you can do for your health is make a point of meeting with your doctor regularly. Talk openly every time you do about your concerns and health habits, and ask plenty of questions about what they recommend doing and avoiding.
A good relationship with your doctor is one of the best paths to prevention and ensures you’ll catch health issues quickly if they do arise.