What does Heart Health Month mean to those of us with “aging” hearts?

February 8, 2016

imagesOur heart is a fist-sized muscle that pumps blood and fresh oxygen to all parts of our body, then returns the blood to the heart for an oxygen refill. It seems simple but this small organ is vital to keeping us healthy.

As we age our heart tends to become a little less efficient, meaning it doesn’t beat as fast. Our maximum heart rate (MHR), which determines how well our heart functions while exercising, decreases (220-age= MHR). When we are at rest our heart can pump as well as a younger heart. The problem arises when an older person exercises and the heart needs to work harder to get the oxygen to the rest of the body.

 

Why does this happen?

  • As we age our arteries tend to become more rigid; fat and cholesterol can collect along the artery walls making them narrower and slowing blood flow.
  • The heart muscle tends to thicken.
  • The heart valves can narrow as deposits of calcium and collagen collect.

Should we find this discouraging? No! Does this mean that heart disease is inevitable? No! It is part of the normal process of aging, but we can take steps to keep our heart functioning efficiently.

What can we do?

  • Keep an eye on our blood pressure, it is an indicator of possible disease.
  • Exercise, not only is it great for our mood, bone health and cognitive function but it keeps coronary disease at bay.
  • Don’t smoke, ‘nuf said
  • Eat a health diet with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains and fruits. We will feel good and be better able to maintain a health weight.
  • Manage stress. Find healthy outlets for stress (we all have it) through exercise, talking to a counselor, etc.
  • Monitor alcohol intake. We don’t metabolize alcohol well as we age so it takes less to have a greater  effect.

Following these tips as well as keeping a positive outlook can help maintain heart health through the “golden” years.

 

 

 

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