February gives us Valentine’s Day, and February also is American Heart Month, a really good time to talk about cardiovascular wellness. The average human heart beats more than 100,000 times a day and pumps about 1,800 gallons of blood in the process. Working that hard, it may be little surprise that cardiac-related conditions represent about 27 percent of all deaths in Americans. That percent increases to 40 percent of all mortality for those ages 65 to 74 and as high as 60 percent of the deaths of people 80 years or older.
Aging sets in motion some trends which help explain the increase in mortality:
- As arteries age, they become less flexible which can increase blood pressure
- Mitral valves in the ventricles of older hearts close more slowly which contributes to a slower flow rate
- The resting heart rate slows and the exercise capacity of the heart decreases with age as well
- Older hearts do not squeeze as efficiently and the heart actually enlarges as the cells themselves expand by as much as 40 percent.
But we get to exert control over how much these aging tendencies will affect our well-being. Here are some tips on how to help the older person in your orbit maintain optimal cardiovascular fitness:
- Lower your blood pressure by maintaining a healthy diet with low salt but high in fruits and vegetable, quit smoking if you are a smoker, limit alcohol intake and stick to your blood pressure meds if prescribed.
- Lower your cholesterol, especially your low density – or bad – lipids by the same healthy diet along with appropriate exercise; your doctor may prescribe a medication for lowering LDL, a statin.
- Learn to consciously relax through dedicated time devoted to slowing your breathing, easing your thoughts, and just slow down your pace of life; it will lower your blood pressure also.
- Maintain a healthy weight which also will come very simply from better diet and regular exercise.
- Exercise regularly and appreciate that you do not have to be aggressive about it; daily walks can be a great aid in the above.
You probably see not just a connection to healthy hearts by sticking to these five tips, but they all work with one another. Exercise is a wonderful way to lose weight or keep weight off, and if you are eating the right foods that helps to keep the weight off also as well as reduce your cholesterol and clear your arteries. And when you also take time to relax, you will be lowering your blood pressure as well. All of this is a recipe for a healthier, older heart. For more advice go to: About.com.