Let’s get right to the heart of the matter. When it comes to positive aging, maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must. And even though it may seem daunting, seniors can start making changes for the better despite their lifelong routines and habits.
Although the average size of an adult heart is only the size of a fist, this muscle has a mighty task to do. It beats about 115,000 times per day and pumps approximately 2,000 gallons of blood throughout the body. For adults (including seniors), the normal resting heart rate is 60 to 100 times per minute.
According to the National Institutes of Health, heart disease is the leading cause of death and a major cause of disability in the United States. Stay on the lookout for any symptoms of heart problems and report them to your loved one’s health care team.
HOW AGING AFFECTS HEART HEALTH
Even though average heart rates don’t change significantly throughout a person’s lifetime, changes in the heart and blood vessels can increase a senior’s risk of heart disease. If their arteries become stiff, the force of blood running through their blood vessels will be consistently too strong. This condition is known as high blood pressure or hypertension. The ideal blood pressure for seniors is the same as an adult of any age: 120/80 (systolic/diastolic).
Although seniors 65 and older are more likely to develop coronary heart disease, there is no one age that is typical for a heart attack or stroke. The good news is that healthy choices can delay or even reverse bad habits of the past. Eating right, being active, not smoking and getting enough sleep all contribute to staying fit throughout life.
COMMON SENIOR HEART PROBLEMS & CONDITIONS
The most common type of cardiovascular disease affects the blood flow to the heart.
Atherosclerosis, sometimes called “hardening of the arteries,” happens when a substance called plaque, made up of cholesterol deposits, builds up in the blood vessels.
When arteries become damaged and narrowed from this plaque, the heart has to pump harder to carry oxygen and other nutrients throughout the body. The result is high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. When people have high blood pressure, their heart does not receive enough blood due to the blocked arteries. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, or other diseases and disorders.
Although routine medical visits include a blood pressure check, investing in a blood pressure monitor and using it regularly at home can save a senior’s life. Keep track of the readings and report them to your loved one’s health care team. A doctor can prescribe medicines to keep it within a normal range, and it’s time to start healthier lifestyle choices like diet and exercise.
Seniors are also more likely to experience arrhythmias causing a rapid, slowed or irregular heartbeat. When valves that control the flow of blood between the heart chambers get stiffened and thick, they become leaky. This causes fluid to build up in the legs or elsewhere in the body like the feet or abdomen. Doctors may prescribe medication or decide on the need for a pacemaker or other treatments.
During your senior’s medical examinations, doctors will recommend tests and screenings to detect and diagnose heart problems.
SIGNS OF SENIOR HEART PROBLEMS
Heart problems start slowly, so your loved one might not even notice, but regular screenings can detect disease before symptoms begin. Be watchful and make sure to keep a regular schedule of medical checkups. Look for:
- Pain, numbness and/or tingling in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back
- Shortness of breath whether active or at rest
- Chest pain
- Cold sweats
- Nausea or vomiting
- Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach and/or neck
- Reduced ability to exercise or to be physically active
If you suspect your loved one is having a heart attack, call emergency help (9-1-1) immediately.
4 WAYS TO HELP A SENIOR BE HEART HEALTHY
- Keep your loved one active, both physically and mentally. The heart is a muscle, and by exercising it, the heart grows stronger, pumping blood more efficiently throughout the body. Talk to your loved one’s health care team about appropriate exercise in line with physical abilities and limitations. Activity will also promote better nighttime sleeping.
Just as important, help your loved one stay engaged with others. Loneliness and boredom add to stress and put a strain on the heart. Check your local resources for groups and events aimed at seniors.
- Help them eat right. Seniors who live alone are less likely to cook for themselves leading them to junk out. Can you package and freeze well-balanced, nutritional meals with nutrient-rich foods, including lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains so good choices are always close at hand? Maybe there’s a Meals on Wheels program in your community. Maintaining a recommended weight helps keep the heart pumping at an ideal pace.
You might have heard that red wine and other alcoholic drinks are good for the heart. Turns out that’s a myth. Wine, beer and other distilled spirits raise blood pressure. Moderation is key.
- If your senior is a smoker, there’s only one solution: STOP! Smoking is the cause of one in every four deaths due to cardiovascular disease in the United States. Their doctor may prescribe an aid to help them end this addictive habit.
- Follow doctors’ orders. Regular checkups and screenings can identify potential problems and monitor the progress of any existing heart conditions. In order to be effective, medications have to be taken on schedule.
HELPING SENIORS IS AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING WE DO
Rosewood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center has been caring for seniors and their families in the Lake Charles, Louisiana area for close to 60 years. As many seniors as we’ve helped during that time, we know each resident is unique. The personalized care plans integrate specialized physicians and therapists as directed by a resident’s primary physician.
The renovation in 2021 gave us the opportunity to create the ideal community for health care and rehabilitation. The new therapy gym accommodates all levels of ability with state-of-the-art equipment.
Come tour our beautiful community and have your questions answered by our experienced, friendly staff.