According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults 65 and older. For seniors with other chronic illnesses, heart disease can be especially dangerous; almost 7 in 10 people with diabetes over age 65 will die of some type of heart disease.
Despite its prevalence in the senior population, heart disease is not inevitable. Here are some diet and exercise tips to keep your heart healthy.
1. Ignore fad diets in favor of a balanced nutrition.
Something older adults often forget, but gets even more important as they age, is making sure to get ample nutrition. As we age, nutrient absorption declines, increasing the risk of malnutrition. To stay healthy, you need to eat more of some things and less of others. Even if you’re trying to lose weight or lower your cholesterol, avoid one-size-fits-all fad diets and focus instead on balanced nutrition incorporating whole foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and lean animal products. The Mediterranean diet is a great example that has been shown to prevent heart attacks and stroke.
2. Prepare your meals in advance.
If you plan your meals throughout the week, you’ll be more likely to keep up your healthy eating habits rather than go out for food or order in. The freezer is your friend: consider preparing a week’s worth of heart-healthy dinners, then pull them out on the day you want to eat them.
3. Start with simple food substitutions.
- Keep enjoying your baked goods — in moderation. Switch out butter or margarine for unsweetened applesauce — the goodies will still be tasty but with less saturated fat.
- Swap out white rice for quinoa. Quinoa is a whole-grain superfood packed with plenty of protein and fiber — it provides 5 more grams of fiber and double the protein of rice, and has significantly fewer carbohydrates — plus tastes great.
- Enjoy your eggs (minus the middle). When it comes to baking or everyday egg eating — replacing whole eggs for egg whites keeps the flavor and the protein while cutting out the artery-clogging cholesterol contained in the yolk.
- Try spices instead of salt. If you’re looking to add some flavor to your food, turn to garlic powder or Mrs. Dash to avoid the increased blood pressure that comes with salt.
4. Incorporate cardio, strength, and mobility into your workout.
Your fitness routine should include cardio, strength training and stretching to achieve maximum benefits for heart and overall health. It’s important to talk with your doctor about what kinds of exercises are safe for you based on your personal health condition. You may want to work with a personal trainer or physical therapist to find a comprehensive routine that works best for you.
5. Try a new type of cardio.
Older adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking), or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. jogging or running) every week, or an equivalent mix of the two. For a fun, low-impact workout, try water aerobics or swimming. If you have chronic conditions, be sure to talk with your doctor before starting a cardio workout regimen. It’s always important to start low and go slow with regard to increasing exercise intensity and duration.
6. Don’t forget to use weights.
Recent studies show that even a little weight training could reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. Plus, maintaining your strength helps decrease the risk of injury, improve your balance and mobility, and can even reduce pain from arthritis. You can also try Pilates or yoga for strength training.