6 strategies for heart-healthy aging

February is Heart Month in Canada. As people get older, the risk of heart disease increases and about two-thirds of Canadians living with ischemic heart disease (the most common type) are 65 or older, reports the Public Health Agency of Canada. Although age isn’t a controllable risk factor, almost 80% of premature heart disease and stroke cases can be prevented through modifiable, healthy lifestyle behaviours, advises Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

Here are six proven ways to help prevent or manage heart disease:

1. Get moving and stay active. Even light-intensity exercise, like walking a dog or gardening, for 30 minutes daily prolongs life for adults in their 70s and 80s without heart disease, reported the British Journal of Sports Medicine. If you’re living with heart disease, consult with your doctor about how to exercise safely and consider participating in a specialized program, such as the University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s Heart Wise Exercise program, in your area.

2. Eat a heart-healthy diet. Consume lots of vegetables and fruit, choose whole grain foods, eat a variety of lower fat foods with protein, and avoid highly processed foods and sugary drinks, advises Heart and Stroke. Healthy eating can lower risk and help manage heart disease by improving cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, reducing excess abdominal fat, and controlling blood sugar.

3. Control and monitor heart-related conditions. Get regular check-ups to detect or monitor high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes and atrial fibrillation. Manage these conditions with medications, if needed, and healthy lifestyle choices, advises Heart and Stroke.

4. Get a good night’s sleep. Studies show poor quality sleep increases blood pressure, stress hormone levels and heart disease risk, according to Ottawa Heart Institute. Addressing sleep problems, such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea, can help prevent or manage heart disease.

5. Reduce stress. People with high stress levels or prolonged stress have higher cholesterol or blood pressure, and may be more prone to narrowing of the arteries, according to Heart and Stroke. Lower stress by being physically active, practising yoga or tai chi, doing breathing exercises or meditating.

6. Feed the heart-brain connection. The recipe for a strong heart—Mediterranean diet, aerobic activity, less stress and cholesterol and blood pressure control—helps keep your brain healthy and mind sharp, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chartwell Retirement Residences offers many recreation activities, such as their Rhythm ‘n’ Moves program, yoga, tai chi and walking clubs, along with tasty, nutritious meals that promote a healthy heart, mind and body. Learn more on our website!