The Importance of a Healthy Heart: small steps to improve your lifestyle.

By Nicole Long, MSW, LICSW, Old Colony Elder Services

Have you heard? Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Knowing your family health history and the risk factors for heart disease, making heart-healthy choices, having regular check-ups, and working with your physician to manage your health are all ways that can help prevent heart disease.

The CDC also mentions, in the U.S., the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease. Essentially, plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries which causes them to narrow over time. This affects the blood flow to the heart and can lead to a heart attack. Key risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking. Other conditions or behaviors that may affect the risk for heart disease include diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet.

Important healthy lifestyle changes include:

Staying active. Get moving for at least 150 minutes per week. Consider incorporating physical activity such as walking or cycling for 30 minutes a day into your routine. You could even break up the 30 minutes into 10-minute blocks over the course of a day.

Managing conditions. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other conditions such as diabetes, it is important that you work with your healthcare team to manage these conditions.

Eating healthy. An unhealthy diet high in sodium can put you at risk for high blood pressure. A diet high in saturated fat can contribute to high cholesterol. Both increase the risk of heart disease. Good nutrition counts. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are among the healthy food choices that are highly recommended.

Stop Smoking. If you smoke, programs are available to help you quit. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health and add years to your life.

Here’s a fun fact: Old Colony Elder Services (OCES) Nutrition Program provides older adults with nutritionally sound and satisfying meals. OCES’ Community Dining sites provide hot, nutritious meals to adults age 60+. Meals are planned by a nutritionist and meet one-third of the Recommended Daily Allowance for major nutrients. The meals do not include high-sodium foods and no salt is added. Older adults who are unable to attend a Community Dining site, or who are unable to prepare nutritious meals at home may benefit from receiving home-delivered meals through Meals on Wheels (MOW). These meals are also planned by a Registered Dietitian. Therapeutic meals are available including chopped, ground, pureed, renal, low lactose, and cardiac types for individuals requiring special diets.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

American Heart Association,

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