Senior Center

How to Keep a Healthy Heart

By Jan Bolder - May 28, 2014

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Our hearts are incredible machines, working tirelessly every minute of every day and not asking too much in return. It circulates blood, keeps oxygen flowing, and allows us to ramp up our exercise so we can keep ourselves healthy. All that we need to do to keep our hearts in decent shape is eat well, keep moving, and cut out things like smoking and drinking. But that's often easier said than done, as a little thing like life gets in the way. And before we're often even aware of it, we're at the doctor, hearing the news that we have to change our lifestyles or risk damaging our hearts. Instead of getting to that point, be proactive about your health and follow these tips to avoid that doctor's appointment.

Get Your Weight Down

Getting older means having to learn how to navigate a body that's not quite as responsive as it was in our younger years. We can no longer eat whatever we want and then "burn it off" by channel surfing on the couch. It's going to take more work than that, but that's a good thing. It's what our heart needs, to be moving around and getting its own exercise.

One of the most important — or detrimental, depending on your outlook — is how weight affects your heart. Put quite simply, the more weight that's on your frame, the harder your heart has to work. And the harder your heart has to work, the sooner it'll have one foot in the grave. And what this means is 30 to 60 minutes a day of low to moderate intensity exercise. It doesn't matter if you ride a bike, take up Zumba or go swimming, as long as you get your heart rate up.

Eat Colorful Fruits and Vegetables

With all the health information about what's good for us seeming to change every month, it can be hard to keep track of the best foods for us. And if you don't feel like reading a new research paper every week to get the most current information, that's okay, you don't have to. Just make sure to load up on as many colors as possible, and you'll be doing fine for yourself.

It's recommended that seniors get five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and some of your top choices should be dark, leafy greens, like spinach and kale. They're easy to make into a salad, which you can use to add in whatever you'd like. Just remember: bright colors, different textures, and five servings a day.

Cut Out Smoking

Quitting smoking can be one of the toughest things in the world, and there's a reason why it's so commonly attributed as being harder to quit than heroin. Not only does it have really addictive properties — which it does — but it's a lifestyle addiction. This means that you use it in everyday situations so much, it becomes a part of your life and who you are.

But as hard as it may be to quit, it's also one of the best things you can do for yourself. People who smoke at least a pack a day are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as someone who doesn't. Smoking also causes your lungs to loose their elasticity and flexibility, which means they can't circulate air as well. And if they can't do that how they need to, that means your heart will be getting less oxygenated blood. So quit, no matter what it takes.