February is American Heart Month. Heart disease continues to be a leading cause of death in the U.S. And, adults with heart conditions are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Fortunately, lifestyle choices can play a significant role in maintaining a healthy heart. Additionally, medical management for those who have heart disease or risks has advanced greatly.
We will share tips for a healthy heart no matter what your current health status is. For those with heart disease or risk factors, monitoring, preventative care, and intervention are especially vital. Watch our American Heart Month “Ask a Care Manager” video to learn more:
Five Keys to a Healthy Heart
First, understand your risks. For those at high-risk, it is especially important to change the factors we can. These are the five steps we have listed below. You can’t change all the factors, such as family history or your age. However, you can monitor and manage your health to minimize risk. Scroll down for important information on how care technology can help you monitor heart health and stay safe.
Your risk of heart disease is higher if you:
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high blood cholesterol
- Are overweight or obese
- Have prediabetes or diabetes
- Do not get regular physical activity
- Have a family history of early heart disease (your father or brother was diagnosed before age 55, or your mother or sister was diagnosed before age 65)
- Have a history of preeclampsia
- East an unhealthy diet
- Are older (over 55 for women and 45 for men)
1. Choose foods for a healthy heart and eat a balanced diet.
Eating for a healthy heart involves choosing certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables, while limiting others, such as saturated and trans fats and added sugars.
For a healthy heart, choose foods like:
- Vegetables such as leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, kale, cabbage), broccoli, and carrots
- Fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, and prunes
- Whole grains such as plain oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain bread or tortillas
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy foods such as milk, cheese, or yogurt
- Protein-rich foods (fish high in omega-3 fatty acids; lean meats such as 95% lean ground beef or pork tenderloin or skinless chicken or turkey, eggs; nuts, seeds, and soy products; legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans)
- Oils and foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
Limit sodium, trans fats, saturated fat, added sugars, and alcohol.
Your doctor may recommend a DASH eating plan, which has been proven to lower high blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood. Our caregivers can help with healthy meal preparation, shopping for ingredients and making sure you have tasty food that promotes a healthy heart.
2. Participate in regular physical activity.
This contributes to a healthy heart by:
- Helping you lose excess weight
- Improving overall fitness
- Lowering many heart disease risk factors such as “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, increasing “good” HDL cholesterol levels, and managing high blood pressure
- Improving your mental health and reducing stress
- Lowering your risk for other conditions like type 2 diabetes, depression, and cancer
You don’t have to run a marathon or go to a gym every day to benefit. Modest exercise can make a difference. Simply walking and sitting less have significant effects. Talk with your doctor before you start a new exercise plan. Discuss how much and what types of physical activity are safe for you.
Aerobic exercise benefits your cardiovascular health most. This is any exercise in which your heart beats faster and you use more oxygen than usual, such as brisk walking, running, biking, and swimming. The more active you are, the more you will benefit. The important thing is to get moving on a regular basis. Do small periods of exercise throughout your day and find things you enjoy so you’ll keep doing them.
Check out our article on senior fitness with lots of ideas. We also have this guide for at-home exercises you can try.
3. Manage stress and get enough good-quality sleep.
Research suggests that an emotionally upsetting event can serve as a trigger for a heart attack in some people. Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other risk factors.
Rather than unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking, alcohol, or overeating, learn how to manage stress with positive activities. Tools may include:
- Talking to a counselor
- Participating in a stress management program
- Practicing meditation, yoga, mindfulness
- Being physically active
- Using relaxation techniques
- Talking with friends, family, and community support systems
Caregivers face high levels of stress, and often neglect their own health. If you’re a caregiver, join our Caregivers Community. Reach out to us for ways we can help you manage care and reduce your worries and burden.
4. Practice preventative care for a healthy heart.
Two of the major risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Check these regularly. If they’re high, work with your doctor to get them in a healthy range.
Organs don’t function separately. Our systems work together. Therefore, a healthy heart is part of an overall healthy body and mind. Get regular health checkups and screenings. Consider getting the COVID-19 vaccination, especially if you are at risk. Talk to your doctor about any concerns.
Let us help you keep track of your appointments and screenings. We can organize your records, coordinate your healthcare, and advocate for you. Additionally, our team can provide transportation to appointments and help with telehealth.
5. Monitor your heart health at home.
Today’s care technology allows you to easily monitor your health from home. EasyLiving provides personal care services and support along with care technology to keep you healthy at home.
Below are a couple examples of remote monitoring we help patients set up and check for a healthy heart. We also help clients keep track of an array of key health indicators, ensure they don’t miss appointments, and do regular assessments to spot issues. All of this helps our clients stay out of crisis and out of the hospital.
- Blood pressure readings at home can be sent to your care team. It does not do much good to only monitor blood pressure on an annual doctor’s visit.
- Many people are first alerted to worsening heart failure when they gain more than two or three pounds in a 24-hour period or more than five pounds in a week. Those suffering from heart disease should be tracking weight for this important sign. The data could save your life. We help our clients with daily weight monitoring and checking for signs of edema (swelling).
Learn more about EasyLiving’s Congestive Heart Failure Program
Support at Home for a Healthy Heart
EasyLiving provides a complete in-home health program for clients with heart disease and other health concerns. The combination of care technology and direct support ensures you stay safe. Our program results in fewer hospitalizations, improved health outcomes, peace of mind for family members, and better quality of life.
Our care managers help coordinate your care and keep you on track. We set up remote condition monitoring and regular checks on key indicators. Additionally, we help communicate and coordinate with your care team and family so everything is working together.
Our caregivers can provide in-home support tailored to your needs. This might include meal planning and preparation, medication assistance, transportation to appointments, and help with personal care and safety. Equally important, they provide socialization, support, and help keep you motivated with physical activity.
Want to stay heart healthy at home?
Learn more about how EasyLiving can help.