American Heart Month Puts Spotlight on Heart Health After 60

Older adults are living longer, staying healthier, and staying more active than those in previous generations. However, they are still experiencing heart disease and strokes from high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity at an alarming rate.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the world and in the United States. Nearly half of all adults in the United States, an estimated 103 million, have high blood pressure. And only about one in five Americans gets enough exercise.

These statistics show a need, particularly for those 60 and better, to address the root causes of heart disease and to take a proactive approach in minimizing risk, a conversation brought to the spotlight in February during American Heart Month.

The good news is, heart disease can often be prevented by making healthy choices and managing health conditions. Older adults should see their health care providers annually for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body mass index tests. They should also talk to their doctors about their risk for heart disease and how to minimize that risk.

Nearly half of all adults in the United States, an estimated 103 million, have high blood pressure. And only about one in five Americans gets enough exercise.

In addition, the AHA makes some general recommendations about staying healthy and active and preventing heart disease.

Eat smart. Adults should watch their portion sizes and ditch sugary drinks. In addition, they should eat fiber-rich foods, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. The AHA says poor eating habits contribute to 45 percent of deaths in the United States, from heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

Add color. Adults, children, and older adults alike should try to “eat a rainbow.” The AHA recommends adding a fruit or vegetable when a meal is too beige.

Move more. Any exercise is better than none, but the AHA recommends 150 minutes, or two and a half hours, of exercise per week.

Be well. General well-being is critical to preventing heart disease. Older adults need to manage their weight, get enough sleep, and kick stress to the curb through exercise, yoga, or mediation. Also, older adults shouldn’t overlook emotional and mental health and should get help if needed to manage stress, anxiety, depression, or grief.

If older adults need help implementing some of these lifestyle changes and are not sure where to start, they can call AgeWell Cincinnati. In addition, AgeWell Cincinnati’s partner organization, the Mayerson JCC, can offer tips and opportunities to maintain a healthy and active life.

“For older adults looking to increase their activity level in 2018, the Mayerson JCC has a number of opportunities,” said Susan Bradley Meyer, JCC Director of Senior Adult Services. “Whether your fitness regimen includes cardio exercise, strength training, or low-impact movements, our full-service fitness center can help those 60 and better meet their goals and live a healthy life.”

Fitness staff at the JCC can help those unfamiliar with the equipment learn how to properly and safely use it. In addition, older adults can participate in a wide variety of wellness and group exercise classes that target all fitness levels.

“One of the newest classes that we are excited to offer is Ancient Chinese Health and Longevity Practices: The Key to Living Well,” Bradley Meyer said. “Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese healing art with thousands of years of history. The benefits include stress reduction, improved heart health, increased balance, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and increased energy levels and mental clarity.”

American Heart Month is a perfect opportunity for older adults to examine their health and well-being and to get important medical screening tests done. Whether it is changing eating habits, getting more active, or reducing stress, small steps can make a significant impact on a person’s risk for heart disease.

You can reach June Ridgway, Manager, AgeWell Cincinnati, at 513-766-3333 or june@agewellcincy.org.