We can see the worry and laugh lines, turkey necks and gray hair arriving as the decades fly by. The little blue pill may begin to look more attractive, and implants are only referred to in the dental sense. But what we can’t see, and what’s more important to pay attention to, is what’s going on with the ticker mechanism inside us. Yes, the corazón (sp.), coeur (fr.), hertô (ger.), kardíā (gr.), or heart as we know it. It is that which keeps the blood flowing, enables us to two-step to the tunes, ache with love or break with a loss, and keeps Hallmark in business in February. We may assume that since we are able to do all those things, everything must be a-ok inside. But that would be a mistake.
As we age, changes take place in our heart and, by extension, our entire vascular system. Even for the healthiest of people, as we age our arteries and vessels stiffen and get a thicker lining which causes a loss in elasticity. Because of this, our hearts end up working harder to pump the blood. Our heart chambers may enlarge slightly as we age, our heart rate at rest lowers and may not sufficiently increase during exercise. While some normal aging is expected, a heart healthy lifestyle can help mitigate the changes that can lead to cardiovascular disease if not kept in check.
So what does all of that mean? Although we can’t change genetics and other factors which may lead to some heart disease, we can do a lot to keep our heart muscle as healthy as possible and avoid possible illnesses. The Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/aging/art-20046070 sums up the basics we all should follow for a heart-healthy lifestyle:
What you can do to promote heart health:
Include physical activity in your daily routine. Try walking, swimming or other activities you enjoy. Regular moderate physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your heart disease risk.
Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and salt.
Don’t smoke. Smoking contributes to the hardening of your arteries and increases your blood pressure and heart rate. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit.
Manage stress. Stress can take a toll on your heart. Take steps to reduce stress, such as meditation, exercise or talk therapy.
Get enough sleep. Quality sleep plays an important role in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Aim for seven to nine hours a night.
Nothing we haven’t heard before, right? But basics are just that – the simple means to an end. In this case, that end is to have no end! In Part 2 of this Heart Healthy series, Getting Into the Specifics, we’ll look at each of these a little more closely and maybe with some added fun.