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Heart health tips for seniors

Written by: Michelle Nicols

An adult heart beats over 100,000 times a day. It is the strongest muscle in our body. It’s the most vital.

So why do we neglect to take care of it?

February is heart health month in Canada and according to 2009 from Statistics Canada, about a quarter of seniors in Canada are living with some form of heart disease. It’s also one of the leading causes of death.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says that the support of family members is a major factor for patients recovering and preventing heart disease. So while you may be focused on getting your aging loved ones’ health in check, don’t forget about yourself.

Physical activity is a major player in heart health. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that older adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week. If you break that down, that’s about 22 minutes a day. No matter how busy anyone’s schedule is, there are no excuses to ignore 22 minutes of exercise a day.

Activities older adults once found easy as teens won’t be as enjoyable anymore due to a loss of strength, balance, and general aging. However, swimming and water aerobics has been a preferred choice of exercise for many seniors because it eases the pressure on your joints. If an aging adult doesn’t have access to a gym – you can also easily modify light weightlifting but using thick books, small bags of rice, or  even water bottles.

A heart-friendly diet is also important in preventing and rehabilitating your heart. Other than the typical advice of eating lots of fresh vegetables, lean meats and whole grains, it’s important that you help your aging loved ones reduce their fat and sodium intakes.

The recommended sodium intake for seniors is 1,200 – 1,300 mg per day, which is approximately just over half a teaspoon. The recommended fat intake depends on your gender, ranging from 45 to 75 g a day for women and 60 to 105 g for men. If you are adjusting your diet, it is vital you seek medical advice from your doctor who can provide you the specific advice required for your loved one’s unique situation.

If you’re taking an aging loved one grocery shopping, teach them how to read the nutrition labels to benefit their diets. In Canada, the per cent of Daily Value is based on a 2,000 calorie which is equal to about 65 g of fat. Health Canada suggests products containing over 15% is relatively high in fat.

And don’t forget to take note of the food you’re already cooking at home. In a diverse country like Canada our mothers’ recipes for stir-fry vegetables and meats, cheesy tomato pasta, fatty and oily meat stews all have hidden amounts of sodium and fat. So for an easy way to adapt your family’s home style cooking, opt for a low-sodium version of pasta sauce or using less chicken stock and more lean meats.

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