Senior Citizens- You need to keep your Heart Young

Advanced age is no bar to making efforts to keep your heart young and healthy
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Representational ImageSource: Pixabay

Heart diseases like heart attacks and related issues are the commonest causes of death in our country, being responsible for one in four deaths in our population.

The chances of getting heart disease certainly increases with advancing age but it is not a general rule. We can do a lot to keep our heart healthy despite increasing age, which is inevitable.

In a study from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a US federal department, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, it has been surmised that half of the adult men and 20% of adult women have a heart which is 5 years older than their chronological age. The more the heart ages the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure increases.

The belief that if one has a family history of premature heart disease, genes predominate and the news is bad. This is not necessarily true. It is the associated risk factors which are important and call the shots. These are: high bad cholesterol, smoking, being overweight, high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of regular exercise, poor intake of fruits and vegetables and mental stress.

Advancing age is no bar to making efforts to keep your heart young and healthy. These efforts can go a long way to live a long and productive life.

Tips to keep Heart Healthy and Young:

Take care of the chronic medical problems: seen often in the senior citizens. These are high BP, diabetes, high bad cholesterol levels and hypothyroidism. Avoid taking unnecessary medications like pain killers, anti- depressants, sleeping tablets, energy boosters etc.

Besides this there are simple methods which should be adopted at all ages. It is never late to start them if you were not careful enough during your younger days.

Regular Physical Exercise: is a very important measure at all ages. A minimum of 30 minutes at least 5 to 7 times a day. In general walking is an all-round great exercise. It lowers sugar, helps reduce weight, maintains balance, bone mass and also mental abilities. It also builds stamina.

Start slowly and build it up, wear appropriate footwear, stop if you feel breathlessness, dizziness or pain. Drink plenty of water before and after exercise. It is always advisable to consult a doctor if you have co-morbidities and are planning to start it after a long gap.

Consume a Heart healthy Diet: Diet is a very important component to keep heart healthy. Instructions of “eating from the rainbow is very catchy”- variety of vegetables and fruits ; greens, carrots, oranges, capsicum, bananas etc. Whole -wheat bread and brown rice. Fat free milk fortified with vitamin D and calcium. Proteins from poultry, lean meat, beans and nuts. Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and desserts with added sugars and cream.

Keep a watch on your weight: Obesity and being overweight invites heart disease, diabetes and high BP. Elderly need to consume a lower calorie diet, because their muscle mass is lower and their metabolism is sluggish as compared to their younger counterparts. It is advocated by experts that they should have more nutrient dense foods. These foods are: fish, potatoes, garlic, leafy greens, eggs including yolk and of course fruits. Eating healthy and being physically active is the key.

Heart failure is seen often in elderly population and they are on a variety of medicines for its treatment. Weight gain is an adverse sign in these patients. Early detection of increasing weight helps to detect worsening of disease.

Daily weight check is a good habit in these individuals at the same time with the same clothes before eating in the morning. A gain of more than 1 kg in a day or 2 kgs in a week should set an alarm and a visit to your doctor must be sought.

Quit Smoking: Smokers must quit this bad habit. It is never too late and will help in your resolve to keep the heart healthy. There are a number of ways to do it. Work on the way which suits you the best. A number of applications are available to help you achieve it provided there is a will.

If you snore during sleep, You may need special attention: Snoring is a common feature seen in the elderly. It disturbs others who are sleeping in the near vicinity.

However, it is harmless unless accompanied by periods of stoppage of breathing in the form of pauses (apnoea), while sleeping. Sleep apnoea can be associated with high BP, heart failure and irregularities of heartbeat.

During these pauses of breathing the oxygen saturation can become very low, which is a feature of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). It is diagnosed by a sleep study.

Severe forms of OSA are treated by continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a device involving wearing a mask during the sleeping period at night. Obesity is a common accompaniment of OSA and weight reduction is very helpful. It can eliminate the symptoms.

Never Ignore Unusual Symptoms: Some symptoms like: Shortness of breath, dizziness, unusual fatigue, swelling of the feet or body, a feeling of impending doom or loss of interest in things which used to interest you need attention. Any of these symptoms need to be attended to by seeing a physician.

Take Home Message:

Senior citizens are more prone to get heart disease. Aging related issues affecting the heart are preventable. It is good to keep your heart young and it is not difficult.

Managing chronic problems like high BP, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and hypothyroidism effectively is important. Besides this regular exercise, consuming heart healthy diet, keeping a check on your weight, quitting smoking, taking care of OSA by using appropriate CPAP if required and never to ignore unusual warning symptoms is important. Remember age is just a number and it is possible to “Beat the Age”

Prof Upendra Kaul, Founder Director, Gauri Kaul foundation, Recipient of Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy Award

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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