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A couple making a heart shape with their hands to showcase heart health at The Gatesworth

Gatesworth Stories —

For the Health of Your Heart
February is American Heart Month

These days, in the midst of a pandemic, we’re all thinking about health in ways we haven’t before. Precautions that once might have felt a bit extreme—think mask-wearing, social distancing, hand sanitizing—are now everyday activities. And most of us are also thinking about a time—in the not-too-distant future—when we won’t have to behave in such rigorous ways.

But perhaps there are some important lessons to be learned at this time—lessons about self-care and disease prevention—that we would do well to carry with us into the future.

Taking good care of your heart is surely one of these—something worth thinking about and acting on. Develop good habits that you can carry with you as we prepare to leave the pandemic behind us.

The aging heart

According to the National Institute on Aging, the heart and blood vessels change with age: “For example, as you get older, your heart can't beat as fast during physical activity or times of stress as it did when you were younger. However, the number of heart beats per minute (heart rate) at rest does not change significantly with normal aging.”

Other changes—and the heart problems they can cause—include:

  • Stiffening of the arteries, called arteriosclerosis, can lead to high blood pressure, also called hypertension.
  • Arteries can also develop atherosclerosis, when fats and other deposits build up on arterial walls and cause them to harden and narrow, thus impeding the flow of blood. Atherosclerosis can lead to serious heart disease and damage.
  • The heart’s electrical system may change over time, causing arrhythmia, defined as a rapid, slowed or erratic heartbeat, making the heart less effective and efficient.

Taking control

Though aging is a natural and inevitable part of life, heart disease doesn’t have to be inevitable. Healthy senior living is the goal. And the National Institute on Aging suggests the following ways to take good care of your heart. Talk with your doctor about the best approach for you, then take control of your health.

  • Get moving: Be an active senior. Walk, run, bike, garden; whatever suits you and your lifestyle. You want to be active daily and avoid long stretches of couch-sitting.
  • Don’t smoke: If you’re a cigarette-smoker, quit. This habit remains the leading cause of preventable death.
  • Eat for health: Look for ways to cut back on added sugar, salt, and trans and saturated fats. Add more whole fruits, vegetables and grains.
  • Watch your weight: Monitor portion size – and balance calories taken in and calories burned.
  • Count your cocktails: Talk with your doctor about alcohol consumption. In general, men should limit their drinks to two; women to one.
  • Manage your conditions: Don’t ignore diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Make your doctor your partner in treating what needs to be treated while improving your overall health.
  • Manage your stress level: Physical activity can help with this. So can a good heart-to-heart with a friend or loved one. Meditation can help; so can a skilled therapist.

Once you make the decision to include heart health in your list of important things to achieve, you’ll find there’s lots of information available to help you along your way. You might start by reviewing the American Heart Association’s Healthy Living guide.

We at The Gatesworth believe wholeheartedly in the benefits of independent living through heart health. Quite simply put, we exist to help active seniors stay healthy and happy. How can we help you?

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