Ah, February, the month of the heart. Of course, when we think about “heart” in the context of February, we tend to think about romance and love. These are beautiful parts to life and, at any age, we want to celebrate them. Seniors can be as romantic (or more so) than younger folks, but if their heart isn’t healthy, it may be harder to enjoy the romance. As it turns out, February is also heart health month. If you are a senior or have a beloved senior in your life, take some time to remember these heart healthy tips:
- Eat right
- Reduce stress
Okay, we know it’s not that simple. With all kinds of reports coming out daily about what we should and shouldn’t eat, how we should exercise and what stress really is, it can feel overwhelming. Luckily, there are things that we know to be true:
- Colorful fruits and vegetables are not only pretty; they are also the foundation for healthy eating. If you start by getting at least five servings a day, you are on the right track. They will give you important vitamins, minerals and fiber, without too many calories. Your heart will love them. AND, don’t forget about frozen fruits and veggies, they pack as much or even more of a healthy punch and they are often a little easier on the pocketbook.
- Chewing the right kind of fat makes a big difference. High-fat dairy or meat makes for unhappy hearts. Make sure you buy lean, skinless meat and that you aren’t consuming a lot of high-fat dairy. But, don’t forget that some fats are good for you, especially those found in salmon and trout—or other oily fish. That’s just another thing we can thank Alaska for!
- Walking it off will keep you walking. Sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to exercise. As we get older, we can feel less coordinated or balanced. But, the good news is: a 20-40 minute walk most days of the week is enough to help our hearts. That’s a good place to start. Plus, it helps to keep our hearts and minds in sync, get fresh air and engage in our community. Before you know it, you’ll be craving more exercise and building more strength to keep your ticker as strong as ever.
- Yoga loves your heart, in every way. Yoga—a practice of stretching into a variety of poses while focusing on your breath—can help to lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity and improve respiratory function and heart rate, among other things. Its meditative qualities also help people to manage and lower stress. Start with a restorative class.
- Slowing down makes for a more enjoyable journey. We’ve talked about this before: rushing around can put seniors at greater risk for falls and also cause undo stress. Sure, retirement is busy, but it’s also a time to truly enjoy life. Allow ample time to get from one activity to another and try to focus on being in the present, instead of on where you need to be next. This is also about not making hasty choices. Traveling, moving, and big social events can be more stressful for seniors. Take the time to plan these things and be realistic about how they might stress you out. Then determine ways to mitigate that stress if you decide to move forward with the plans.
Here’s to happy hearts that make fuller hearts.