February is the month of the heart…a time for love, and for loving your amazing heart and cardiovascular system. As we prepare for National Heart Month, we wanted to focus on some quick and useful tips that you can apply as a caregiver to help those you care for to stay heart healthy. Here are five top heart health tips for caregivers (these can be applied both to your care recipient and yourself). Show your care recipient some love today by helping to implement these heart health tips:
- Mix it up! Make varied meals and get more nutrients with less calories and sodium. Think about a small change you can make prior to Heart Month to improve the “heart healthiness” of your diet. The changes don’t have to be drastic and can be tasty. Maybe you can cook fresh foods a couple extra times per week, reducing your intake of canned, frozen and convenience foods. This is potentially a great way to get more nutrients and reduce sodium intake. We all get in a rut when it comes to eating and preparing meals. The internet can help with thousands of recipe sites and information! Vow to make a new dish for your care recipient each week. You can stay within particular diets or taste preferences while still trying something new. The American Heart Association even has a whole heart healthy recipe section and EasyLiving offers nutrition tips as well as number of articles on senior nutrition (just type “nutrition” or any other search topic in the search bar on our blog to find relevant articles).
- Be active together! Take a walk each day. You can walk in the local mall or your neighborhood, or explore some place new. What about trying a dance class or going for a swim a few times/week? Many people are more motivated to exercise with companionship (someone to enjoy the time with and keep you on track). Being active doesn’t have to mean a workout at the gym, but adding some physical activity can make a big difference for cardiovascular health. It can also reduce caregiving stress!
- Do a new year’s health checkup. Review your care recipient’s calendar/records to make sure preventative care appointments are scheduled for the year. Schedule an annual physical (now covered by Medicare) and talk to your doctor about what screenings are needed as well as your ongoing health plan.
- Target one bad habit for change, with specific, reasonable goals. If you need to lose weight, just doing our tips under #1 and #2 will be a good start. Make it specific, though, such as “we will cook 2 new healthy recipes each week” or “we will take a 15 minute walk each day” and schedule the time to complete these tasks. If you smoke, quitting is vital for your health but can seem like an overwhelming prospect. Talk to your health professional about support to help you quit. Many older adults who smoke say, “why bother now?”, but the benefits to quitting start almost immediately. Quitting smoking can help you age more healthfully in general and better equip your body to withstand/fight all kinds of health issues.
- Laugh! This one’s easy…who doesn’t like to laugh? There is a lot of research pointing to health benefits of laughing, showing increased blood flow, improved immune system response, increased relaxation and possible effects on everything from blood sugar levels to stress hormones and cholesterol. While some of the research is not definitive, it’s pretty likely that a good dose of laughter will reduce your stress and make you feel better…all good for the heart and overall health. This tip is especially important for caregivers who may be under a lot of strain and need to stay physically and mentally healthy to continue caregiving. So, maybe it’s time to watch a comedy instead of a drama tonight!
Contact EasyLiving at 727-448-0900 for help with caregiver respite services and in-home care. We help our clients stay active and heart healthy, with concierge services, medication management, senior nutrition assistance and much more!