February is heart health month, which is important considering that heart disease is currently the leading cause of death for both men and women. Noticing signs of heart problems can sometimes be challenging, both in yourself and in loved ones you care for. Typical warning signs like chest pain or discomfort, aren’t always present. And seniors, particularly women, are more likely to experience lesser-known symptoms like shortness of breath, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sweating, sleep problems and even pain in the jaw, neck, arm or upper belly.
Remaining vigilant is a key component in ensuring that your loved one receives immediate medical attention in the event of a coronary emergency, but you shouldn’t wait for these signs of heart problems to appear to start promoting heart health for seniors. In fact, incorporating healthy heart tips into your daily life will not only boost your loved one’s overall well-being, but also your own.
The Importance of Heart Health for Seniors AND Caregivers
As a caregiver, you may already know that heart disease is very prevalent among seniors. Since age is the biggest risk factor, the American Heart Association estimates that more than 43 million adults aged 60 or older have at least one type of heart disease. Although it’s one of the leading causes of death in seniors, it’s important to remember that caregivers are also at a higher risk of this chronic condition, which can often be hereditary.
Caregivers commonly report higher stress levels than non-caregivers, which can take a serious toll on your heart health. In fact, the Family Caregiver Alliance found that when compared to non-caregivers, caregivers are nearly twice as likely to report a chronic condition, with heart disease being the most common condition reported. This risk doubles after providing just nine hours of care a week, but since family caregivers provide an average of 24 hours of care, heart disease becomes a very real threat for caregivers.
4 Simple Healthy Heart Tips for Your Daily Life
Due to the increased risk of heart disease among both seniors and caregivers alike, it’s essential that you do everything you can to promote heart-healthy habits. Luckily, there are some simple healthy heart tips you can incorporate into your daily life that will promote your aging loved one’s well-being -- and even benefit your own health at the same time, too:
- Exercise. Not only does it strengthen both the heart and lungs, but studies have also shown that exercise cuts the risk of heart failure in half. Join your loved one for a swim in the pool, a bike ride through the park, or even for a simple walk around the neighborhood. No matter which aerobic exercise you choose to enjoy together, fitting physical activity into your daily routine will have a huge impact on your heart health.
- Switch to a heart-healthy diet. If your loved one frequently eats microwaveable meals that are high in sodium because they no longer feel comfortable cooking, help them make nutritious meals, even preparing big batches of homemade food each week that they can reheat as needed. When it comes to promoting heart health for seniors, eating a low-fat, low-salt diet like the Mediterranean diet is best.
- Quit smoking and excessive drinking habits. These are two health threats that are commonly overlooked among the senior population. More than 8 percent of seniors smoke, and the numbers behind elderly alcohol abuse can be just as surprising. 17 percent of seniors suffer from substance abuse issues, and that number is expected to grow to 34 percent by 2020. If you or your loved one do either one of these habits, support each other by speaking with a physician about best practices for quitting and by visiting support groups together.
- Stay positive. Out of all of these healthy heart tips, this is the easiest one to implement in your daily life. Maintaining a positive attitude goes a long way in managing stress as a caregiver. Try keeping a gratitude journal and focusing more on all of the positive things in your life. Plus if you sign up for a yoga or tai chi class with your loved one and practice deep breathing techniques with each other throughout the day, you will both be feeling less stress and more positivity!
Access to Instant Help at the First Signs of Heart Problems
Although these healthy heart tips promote an active and beneficial lifestyle, it is still possible for you loved one to experience a coronary emergency. Whether or not your loved one has shown signs of heart problems, ensure that they have access to immediate help with a Medical Guardian medical alert device. As an added benefit, our 911-trained operators will instantly notify you of the emergency so you will always be aware of your loved one’s health status -- even if you can’t be there with them.