Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in our country and affects millions of older adults. With those odds, it’s easy to feel powerless against it in your aging journey, but there are steps you can take towards putting the health of your heart first.

Heart disease can include a number of diseases, among the most common is coronary artery disease (CAD) which is a narrowing of the arteries that provide nutrients to the heart. A high level of blood cholesterol (a fat-like substance) is a risk for heart disease as it can build up and narrow the arteries causing blood flow to slow or even stop. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart is completely blocked.

A commonly identified symptom of CAD is chest pain which can also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck or back. Other symptoms can include shortness of breath, palpitations (irregular heartbeats), a fast heartbeat or dizziness. If you feel any of these symptoms intensely or on a regular basis, you should consult your doctor.
Adults should have their cholesterol levels checked at least every five years. The desirable total cholesterol level is less than 200 mg/dL. If your levels read higher, you are at risk for heart disease and may need to take preventative actions. Other risk factors for heart disease include cigarette smoking and family history. For those that don’t have heart disease and even for those that have been diagnosed, there are simple steps you can take to decrease your risk and gain control of a healthy heart:

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet – saturated fats contribute to high levels of cholesterol. Reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet and replace it with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • Manage your weight – being overweight increases your risk for heart disease and increases your cholesterol levels.
  • Adopt an active lifestyle – form a walking club and talk with your doctor about other forms of activity. Regular exercise decreases your cholesterol and helps manage your weight.
  • Quit smoking – smoking limits the amount of oxygen in your body, making it difficult for your heart to get the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
  • Practice stress management – studies show that chronic stress increases the risk for heart disease. Find healthy outlets to manage your stress like meditation, prayer and participating in things you enjoy.

Taking care of your heart is a great step towards the best possible aging journey. Understand where you are and what you want out of your latter years. If you need help navigating your journey, call to talk with a Tabitha Continuum Navigator, 402.486.8520.