More than 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, making heart disease one of the leading causes of death in both men and women. The nation observes National Heart Health Month in February to raise awareness of heart disease.
At any time – but particularly during Heart Health Month -- it’s important to become familiar with prevention techniques and warning signs, as well as the lifestyle changes that can help prevent heart disease and heart attack. The major habits related to heart health are diet, stress management and exercise.
A heart-healthy diet consists of a variety of meal choices. The American Heart Association recommends the following dietary choices:
- At least 4 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables per day
- At least 3 ½ ounces of fish per week
- At least 1 ounce of fiber-rich whole grains per day
- Less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day
- No more than 450 calories of sugar-sweetened beverages per week
For seniors, stress can originate from a number of sources such as illness or family issues, and may have adverse effects on heart health. If left unmanaged, stress can lead to emotional, psychological and physical health problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure. The follow are recommended stress-relieving techniques:
- Cognitive puzzles
- Deep breathing or another relaxation techniques
In addition to aiding with stress management, physical activity can help prevent heart disease and strengthen the heart muscle. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of physical activity per day. For seniors, some recommended exercises include yoga, walking, stretching and water aerobics. Regular physical activity can also lower blood pressure and boost good cholesterol.
The warning signs of heart related illnesses may vary. The most common symptom of heart disease is angina, or chest pain. Angina can be described as widespread discomfort in the chest, shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw or back. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, palpitations, increased heartbeat, weakness or dizziness, nausea and sweating. Symptoms may vary considerably from person to person, and it’s important to consult a physician with any questions.
As one of the leading causes of death, heart disease can be prevented by making a few simple lifestyle changes. It is important to know how to identify the warning signs and seek medical attention as needed. Changes in diet, lifestyle and fitness may be difficult but can lead to a healthier, happier life.