February is Heart Month in Canada, the perfect time to review how we can improve our own heart health and that of our elderly loved ones.
According to Government of Canada statistics, nearly 1 million Canadians over age 65 suffered from heart disease in 2020. It’s well known that the risk of contracting heart disease increases as we age, making it especially critical for older people to take steps to protect their heart health.
Know your risk of developing heart disease
The most common risk factors for developing heart disease include the following:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Drinking alcohol
- Family history of heart disease
- Being overweight or obese
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Poor nutrition
Some of these risk factors, such as age and family history, are beyond our ability to control. However, many others can be managed with a few simple lifestyle changes.
How to cut the risk of heart disease
Here are five steps you can take to help your elderly loved one lower their chances of contracting heart disease.
Help them stay physically active on a regular basis
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve and maintain optimal heart health. With so many available options, older people can choose which activities bring them the most pleasure and will keep them motivated.
Here are some effective aerobic activities for your loved one to try:
- Brisk walking
- Water aerobics
Aerobics should be balanced with resistance training to help increase core muscle strength and improve balance. Push-ups, squats, arm reaches, and lifts are all great movements that contribute to heart health.
Yoga is another activity that involves stretching, balance, and mindfulness. However, the person should only do yoga moves within their comfort level. Pushing too hard with any exercise can result in injury.
Physical activity also helps support physical health and improves mental health, especially if your loved one exercises with a partner, friend, or as part of a group. You can also try exercising with them for fun and to take care of both of your hearts!
Exercise also serves as the perfect stress buster, further helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.
As with any new exercise routine, be sure that your loved one checks with their doctor to confirm that it’s safe and appropriate to start. They’re the most reliable resource to help you put together a customized physical fitness plan.
Ensure they properly manage their weight with balanced nutrition
A lack of following a well-balanced nutrition plan can lead to several health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart issues. Many older people are particularly vulnerable because they live alone and aren’t motivated to cook. They may also have mobility issues and can’t easily get to the grocery store.
If they don’t focus on preparing wholesome meals made with fresh, healthy ingredients, they may fall back on sugary snacks or microwave dinners that can be high in salt. The result can be low energy, weight gain, and an unhealthy heart.
It’s recommended to have a meal plan that includes lean meat, fresh produce, and foods high in fibre, such as whole grain bread, beans, vegetables, and fruit. They can also improve heart health by eating fish rich in Omega-3 fats in as little as two servings per week of:
- Atlantic mackerel
- Canned light tuna (in water)
If your loved one doesn’t eat fish, they can take Omega-3 capsules to help boost their intake of this beneficial fatty acid.
Your doctor or nutritionist can help develop a healthy menu based on individual nutritional requirements if you need help with a meal plan. You can also seek a home caregiver who can shop and prepare meals for your loved one.
Encourage your loved one to stop smoking
As anyone who’s ever smoked knows, this is much easier said than done. However, it’s a fact that quitting contributes to a healthy heart and lungs and helps you avoid cancer, stroke, heart disease, and other dangerous health outcomes.
Limit their alcohol intake
Some experts believe that drinking alcohol can actually help heart health. However, there isn’t enough evidence to support this claim. It’s best that your loved one limit how much they drink to help lower their risk of coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease.
Having more than two alcoholic drinks per day for women and three for men can contribute to high blood pressure, damage heart muscle, cause an abnormal heartbeat, and impact other aspects of your health.
If you are concerned about your loved one’s alcohol intake, seek advice and support from their physician about different treatment options. Even if they deny or downplay their alcohol use, encourage them to seek treatment to significantly reduce their risk of heart disease.
Ensure they visit their doctor for regular checkups
Heart disease does not always come with symptoms. In some instances, women have different heart attack symptoms than men. We may not even know how healthy our hearts are until we experience an unwanted health event, such as a heart attack.
An ideal way to proactively check your loved one’s heart health is to ensure they regularly visit their primary care physician or cardiologist. The doctor may run blood pressure and cholesterol tests and recommend progressive steps to lower them if they are too high. Treatment may include a combination of diet, exercise, and medication.
As a home caregiver, you know how challenging it can be to support an older loved one, especially if they have special health needs. When you support, CareHop is just a phone call away.
Quality in-home elder care services in Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Brampton
CareHop specializes in providing safe, quality eldercare services when you need a helping hand. Our goal is to bring peace of mind to families while protecting their loved one’s health and well-being.
Our caregivers provide professional in-home nursing care, PSW services, and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care that focuses on your loved one’s needs and helps them have a great day every day. We also offer in-home elder care services such as homemaking and meal preparation, personal care, activities, and casual companionship.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation discussion to discover how we can help you.