American Heart Month is a time to raise awareness about heart health and urges people to prevent heart disease, which is a frequent condition in older adults. Heart disease is the buildup of fatty deposits, or plaques in the walls of the coronary arteries over many years.
The most common ways for people to prevent heart disease is to adopt a healthy lifestyle including:
- Be physically active – Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of daily activity
- Quit smoking – One of the best things you can do to protect your heart is to eliminate smoking from your life
- Follow a heart-healthy diet – Follow a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats, beans, whole grains and healthy fats
- Keep a healthy weight – Being overweight and carrying extra weight around your middle can increase your risk of heart disease
- Drink alcohol in moderation – As we age our tolerance for alcohol changes. If you drink, it’s important to drink in moderation.
- Manage stress – Find healthy ways to relieve stress such as exercise or meditation
Regular checkups with your doctor are important to discuss any changes in your heart health, or if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Chest discomfort – Pain, tightness or pressure that lasts longer than a few minutes
- Dizziness or Shortness of breath – the sudden feeling of unsteadiness or that you cannot take in enough oxygen
- Lower extremity swelling – This includes leg, feet or ankle swelling
- Unexplained fatigue – Suddenly feeling tired or winded by something that you have no problem doing previously
- Heart palpitations – Irregular heartbeats that feel rapid, pounding or fluttering
American Heart Month is a good time for older adults to educate themselves and make changes to protect their heart health.