Let’s be honest; getting old isn’t always fun. Joints start to creak, backs are constantly aching, and the old heart is working the way it used to. However, a healthy heart can be the key to better all-around health, so it’s important to get familiar with eating habits that support optimal cardiovascular function and, if you care for an elderly loved one, learn how to deal with a cardiac emergency.
The tips that follow are great for seniors and their caregivers, but you are never too young to start watching out for your ticker.
Heart disease is a huge risk in our society. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women. That’s mostly because each of our cities has a fast food joint on every street corner. Greasy fast food costs a dollar, so why not get it? There are few things worse for your heart than greasy, fatty fast food. It’s important to orient your diet, and your family’s, to heart-friendlier foods, like veggies, fruits, lean protein, and fiber.
There are plenty of great foods that fit those categories that will help seniors stay healthy and vibrant. Here’s a list of some of my favorite heart healthy foods.
– Veggies: tomatoes, cabbage, spinach, carrots, asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli (frozen is fine), leafy greens, onions, garlic, and squash.
– Fruit: apples, kiwis, blackberries, boysenberries, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, papayas, peaches, and (my personal favorite) bananas.
– Meat: fish, shellfish, chicken (minus the skin), and lean beef, veal, ham, lamb, wild game, or low-sodium lunch meat. Don’t eat more than 6oz of meat per day. Be sure to eat fish at least twice a week. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that helps lower your risk of coronary artery disease.
– Fiber: wheat, rice, oats, corn, pasta, bread, oatmeal, etc. All of those count as grain products. You’ll want to make sure that they’re whole grain, though. Otherwise, those foods are likely to be refined grain which have the bran and germ removed. Don’t be fooled if refined grained packages says it’s “vitamin enriched,” because, while it will have some vitamin B and iron added, it will not have the fiber that you are looking for.
Eating right isn’t enough. Senior need to stay active. You’ll mainly want to do activities that promote cardiovascular health. That could be walking the dog, taking a stroll around the block, or even yoga. If you smoke, quit. These two things will help you maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight increases the chance that you will contract heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
If you care for an elderly person, or find yourself in the position to help, know what to do in the event of a cardiac emergency:
– Call 911 and stay on the line. Be as thorough and as accurate as possible with the information that you give emergency responders. Panicking will not do anybody any good. So, be sure to take several big, deep breaths if you feel yourself start to stress. If the dispatchers give you any instructions, follow them to the T.
– Check around for an automated external defibrillator (AED). Be sure to use it correctly if you end up having to do so.
– If you’re caring for the elderly, be sure to know how to take a pulse, monitor breathing, and purchase an automatic blood pressure monitor.
– Be ready to perform CPR if you cannot observe breathing or a pulse. Be as up-to-date on the latest CPR techniques as possible. There are certifications for Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) that can be pursued online at ACLS.net.
So, seniors, be sure to eat healthy and exercise, and don’t stress out; you don’t have to make these changes in one day. Take it slow. Add some of these foods tomorrow, and in a week, add a bit more.
Caretakers, be sure to follow the proper procedures in the event of a cardiac arrest, it can be the difference between life and death.