February is American Heart Month

Heart disease is the single biggest health risk for seniors in the United States. It is the leading annual cause of death and hospitalizations among all older Americans. February is American Heart Month, and groups around the nation are attempting to raise awareness about heart disease.

“Many of the families and seniors we work with locally don’t understand that a proper diet and even the modest of exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks among seniors by more than 25%,” according to Dianna McRae, a senior care provider. “Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting lazy, so we do everything we possibly can to help our clients continue to live a healthy, happy lifestyle,” McRae said.

According to the American Heart Association:

  • 5.3 million Americans are living with heart disease and over 600,000 more are diagnosed each year.
  • 20% of seniors (over the age of 65) develop some form of heart disease.
  • The number of seniors hospitalized annually for heart failure has increased more than 130% since 1980.
  • Regular light to moderate physical activity (walking, gardening, outdoor chores, etc.) can reduce the risk of heart disease among seniors by 25% to 36%.

In addition to physical exercise, a healthy diet and lifestyle can also significantly reduce the risk of suffering heart disease, heart attacks and irregular or rapid heartbeats – all red flags of potential heart failure among the elderly.

“The heart is a muscle, and like every other muscle group in the body, you need to exercise it and give it the nutrients it needs to work properly, especially as you get older,” McRae said.

Nutrition tips for a heart-healthy senior diet:

  • Don’t smoke and minimize alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid foods with trans-fats (margarine, bakery goods, fast foods) to reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Eat plenty of fish, green vegetables and nuts with omega-3 fatty acids to improve overall heart health.
  • Drink black or green tea after meals – antioxidants in these beverages decreases blood vessel constriction and improve overall circulation.