“I’ve been thinking a lot about habit changes lately as I watch my father struggle with controlling his heart condition. We have a strong family history of heart disease, and I would love any tips to help my father now as well for me in the future. What can you tell me about improving heart health for seniors?”-Marshall from Lawrenceville

Considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women over 65, you are doing yourself and your father a lot of good by changing habits now. Heart health for seniors is on lots of people’s minds because almost everyone will be affected directly or have a loved one who suffers from a heart condition. You may not be able to reverse your father’s problems, but you can lessen the severity of the symptoms or slow the pace of complications with basic lifestyle changes.

Under the Umbrella

Heart disease is not any one diagnosis, but rather encompasses several conditions that fall under its general name. Any disease that affects the circulatory system can be called heart disease, although the risks and complications of each can be different. Some of the more common forms of heart disease are:

  • Coronary artery disease – when there is damage to the major blood vessels of the heart
  • Hypertension – also known as high blood pressure, it causes the blood flow to place too much force on vessel walls
  • Congestive heart failure – when the heart does not pump well, fluid can build up in the lungs and other parts of the body
  • Atrial fibrillation – typically refers to a rapid heart rate or out-of-sync beat that can cause poor blood flow
  • Arrhythmia – any form of irregular heartbeat, either too fast or too slow
  • Peripheral artery disease – while coronary heart disease damages the heart, peripheral disease affects blood flow to the extremities

There are other less common heart conditions, including congenital defects, and some may be improved with surgery or other treatment. Stroke and cardiac arrest can result from any of these forms of heart disease, so any changes you or your father can make now to promote a healthy heart is truly an investment in wellbeing.

Back to the Basics

You can create simple habit changes to improve heart health for seniors. They may not reverse or halt your loved one’s heart disease, but they can boost quality of life, and who doesn’t want that? We suggest you try to incorporate some or all of these tips into your everyday routine:

  1. No smoking – if you smoke, you should stop. If you don’t, then good for you!
  2. Eat a healthy diet – fruits, veggies, lean meats should make up the bulk of your diet. It’s fine to have an occasional treat because you still want to enjoy yourself; just make sure the rest of the time, you stick to healthier options.
  3. Watch your numbers – schedule regular check-ups with your physician to monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. Tracking your vital information can help your doctor tell if you have a change in your condition, need a prescription adjusted, or require other testing.
  4. Reduce your alcohol intake – notice we said reduce, not eliminate. An occasional drink should be okay if your doctor is not concerned about interference with medication and you do not have a substance dependence issue.
  5. Watch your weight – even a modest weight loss of ten percent of your current weight can give you health benefits. As you age, your calorie needs typically lessen, and you should be aware if you have any weight loss or gain.
  6. Catch some zzz’s – regular sleep patterns are healthy at every age. Try to limit stimulation or screen time right before bed and stay consistent with your bedtime.
  7. Get moving – regular exercise can make a world of difference for your quality of life. Aim for thirty minutes of cardio movement every day. It can be anything you enjoy – walking, swimming, stationary bike – as long as it works up a little sweat, you are good.
  8. Minimize stress – life is meant to be enjoyed. Find what helps you relax, whether it’s meditation, social time with friends or family, or just a little laughter therapy. Focus on gratitude and mindfulness rather than negativity or disappointment. Your heart will thank you.

Heart health for seniors can be a group goal, so recruit other family or close friends to join you and your father as you make changes in your lifestyle. You may not eliminate your father’s heart disease, but you both should find your physical and mental health improving without too much effort.

Good luck!


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