5 Tips for Heart Health in Retirement

Health + Wellness   |   By HumanGood


It’s not new news that heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and the No. 1 cause of death for most demographic groups in the United States. About 1 in 5 deaths in this country are from heart disease, but it doesn’t have to be this way. According to the American Heart Association, as many as 90% of cardiovascular diseases are preventable. 

As you age, the effects of your lifestyle may become more apparent on your heart and the rest of your body. But it’s never too late to make a change, and you may see improvements in your well-being quickly. Losing just 5% of your body weight, for example, can improve heart health, ease joint pain, help you regain energy and reduce your risk of cancer. 

A heart-healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean spending all your time lifting weights or giving up the things you love. It’s about balance, moderation and treating your body with kindness. These five tips can help you lead a heart-healthy lifestyle at every age. 


1. Maintain a healthy weight in a healthy way. 

Being very overweight or very underweight can harm your heart health. Foods that tend to cause weight gain — trans fats, highly processed foods, excessive sugary snacks and saturated fats — can also damage your heart and many other organs. Similarly, a sedentary lifestyle, which is a big risk factor for weight gain, can damage blood vessels, joints and overall health. It increases the risk of death from heart disease and all other causes

Talk to your doctor about the ideal weight for your age and height. Then, make a plan to get there slowly and steadily. Yo-yo dieting, disordered eating and nutrient deficiencies can be just as catastrophic for your health as being overweight. Focus on a moderate approach, sustainable food choices and feeling good rather than rapid weight loss. 


2. Eat a heart-healthy diet.

Heart-healthy foods can help you attain healthy weight goals while supporting heart health. Consider making small swaps throughout the day and seizing opportunities to add a few more fruits and vegetables. For example, you might add a bit of kale to your morning smoothie or reduce the sugar you add to your oatmeal. You might replace your sweetened latte with coffee that has less sugar. Replace your daily soda with seltzer water. 

Reduce your sodium intake, especially sodium that comes from processed and restaurant foods. Eliminate trans fats, and try to keep your saturated fat intake low. Some foods that can be especially beneficial for heart health are: 

  • Fiber- and iron-rich whole grains 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish such as salmon and tuna 

  • Antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables 


3. Get active. 

Physical activity strengthens your heart and blood vessels, in addition to helping you feel healthier and happier and supporting a healthy weight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults, including older adults, aim for at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running, or 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, each week. Additionally, adults should do muscle and bone-strengthening activities, such as weightlifting or yoga, at least twice per week. More exercise offers additional benefits. 

Any exercise at all is better than none, and exercise doesn’t have to feel like exercise. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Cleaning your house, gardening, chasing the grandkids and walking your dog are all examples of exercise. Consider looking for opportunities to increase your daily movement, such as using the stairs instead of the elevator. Research shows that even increasing your daily steps by 500 lowers your heart disease risk. 

Life Plan Communities are walkable, safe and filled with activities that may inspire you to get moving. 


4. Ditch bad habits. 

Bad habits can wreck heart health even if you feel healthy. And it’s never too late to quit. In fact, ditching a bad habit may offer immediate heart health benefits. Do the following

  • Quit smoking now. If you can’t, then try to reduce your smoking as much as possible. 

  • Limit your alcohol consumption. 

  • Talk to your doctor about all medications — even supplements and recreational drugs — and use all medications exactly as prescribed. 

  • If you have an addiction, get treatment. 


5. Manage chronic health conditions. 

Having a chronic disease can be scary, but clearly simply ignoring a health condition won’t make it disappear. Luckily, even serious diseases and symptoms are manageable with treatment. And often, treatment can reduce your heart disease risk. 

It’s especially important to manage your cholesterol and blood pressure, treat diabetes and work with your doctor to cultivate a heart-healthy lifestyle. 

Little changes add up. Keep trying. And consider how the right community might make your heart health goals just a bit easier to attain.

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