To ensure that you’re taking the proper steps to maintain or improve your cardiovascular health, it’s essential to have open and informative discussions with your healthcare provider.


How does the heart change as you age?

A natural part of aging is experiencing changes in how our hearts and blood vessels work. Some of these include:

  • Decrease in heart rate during physical activity: The maximum heart rate during physical activity decreases with age. This event is due to the heart muscle being unable to contract as forcefully or efficiently as it did in younger years.
  • Stiffening of blood vessels: The walls of the blood vessels may become thicker and less flexible with age. This can reduce blood flow and put additional stress on the heart.
  • Increase in blood pressure: Stiffening of the blood vessels and an increase in plaque buildup can cause blood pressure to increase with age. High blood pressure can lead to several health problems, such as stroke and heart attack.
  • Changes in cholesterol levels: With age, cholesterol levels tend to increase, especially the “bad” LDL cholesterol. High cholesterol levels can also lead to plaque buildup in the blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease.

These changes are standard parts of the aging process and might not indicate any underlying heart issues. However, keeping an eye on your heart health is crucial for catching potential problems early on and preventing the development of heart diseases.

That’s why talking to your doctor about improving your heart health is a good idea. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific needs. Here are four crucial questions to consider asking your doctor during American Heart Month:


What Dietary Changes Can Improve My Heart Health?

Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is one of the best things you can do for heart health. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants essential for healthy cell production. Whole grains contain dietary fiber, which helps to clear cholesterol from your arteries.

Lean proteins give your body the amino acids it needs to create healthy muscle tissue around the heart. Healthy fats like those found in olive oil and avocado also help to reduce inflammation throughout your body. Take an active role in what you eat to keep your heart healthy over time.


How Can I Tailor an Exercise Regimen to Benefit My Heart?

One of the most important things you can do to keep your heart healthy is to exercise regularly. According to the CDC, regular physical activity can help prevent or delay many age-related health problems. It can also help your muscles grow stronger, which will help your ability to perform day-to-day activities without being dependent on others.

Before starting any exercise program, whether it’s moderate activities like walking or light jogging, strength training, or balance-improving exercises, it is essential to consult your doctor. They will help you develop a personalized exercise plan that suits your needs and capabilities. Coordinating with your physician beforehand ensures a safe and effective exercise regimen.

If you are an adult aged 65 or older, the CDC recommends:

  • Activities designed to improve balance, such as standing on one foot about 3 times a week.
  • At least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.
  • At least 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week, such as walking or light jogging.

Light activity can also be a leisurely walk around the neighborhood or gentle stretching in your living room.

Exercise is also a great way to stay socially active. Getting together with friends or Companions or gathering with a local walking club can combine exercise with laughs and conversation – an all-around win!

For more information about the activities mentioned, such as walking, balancing, and flexibility, you can consult the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for some recommendations. An excellent place to start is to pick some activities that interest you and talk to your doctor about them.

Becoming more active can change your quality of life and make all the difference in keeping your heart healthy.


What Is the Optimal Amount of Sleep for Heart Health?

Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is paramount for heart health. If you ask how much sleep I need, the answer is that what qualifies as enough sleep will differ from person to person. 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep each night is recommended for older adults.

Though staying up late or cutting back on sleep won’t have much of an effect, studies show that reduced sleep can increase your risk of cardiovascular complications such as stroke and hypertension. Make sure you take time daily to get the rest your body needs and deserves.


How Can I Manage Stress Effectively to Support Heart Health?

Reducing stress levels can have a positive impact on your heart health. Relaxation is essential in managing stress and reducing heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. It’s also beneficial to practice physical activities that are low-intensity and calming, like walking, chair yoga, or a mindfulness activity like meditation.

Reading is also a relaxing activity that can give you meaningful moments to pause from the hustle and bustle of life. Nature walks guarantee a peaceful retreat surrounded by breathtaking landscapes that can reduce stress tremendously. These practices provide many valuable benefits for your cardiovascular system, mind, and well-being. Discussing these strategies with your doctor can provide valuable insights into managing stress to benefit your heart health.

Initiating these conversations with your doctor and implementing their recommendations can significantly contribute to better heart health, regardless of age. Taking proactive steps to prioritize heart health today can have a lasting impact on your overall well-being in the years to come.


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Resource links:

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – The Heart


National Institute on Aging – Heart Health and Aging


National Institute on Aging – High Blood Pressure and Older Adults


National Institute on Aging – Exercise and physical activity


National Institute on Aging – Healthy eating, nutrition, and diet


Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – Stress


CDC – How much sleep do I need?


MedlinePlus – Aging Changes in the Heart


CDC – How much physical activity do older adults need?


Health.Gov – Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans – PDF Document