Keeping Your Heart Healthy This Winter

Megan Ray  |  December 31, 2015
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Staying healthy during the winter can be a little tricky. The weather makes it more difficult to get out and stay active, and there are often delicious treats and desserts that can derail an otherwise healthy diet.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is one of the most dangerous conditions facing Americans. Coronary heart disease alone affects hundreds of thousands of adults, and many people who neglect their health could be increasing their risk of heart attack or other serious ailment. 

For older adults, it can be especially important to maintain good habits and a heart-healthy lifestyle during the winter months. Here are some important ways to keep your heart as happy and healthy as possible.

Diet
There are a number of foods that can be very dangerous for the heart, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reported that eating poorly can lead to damage within the heart that leaves it vulnerable to becoming blocked or shutting down.

Foods full of cholesterol and fat are very bad for the heart and can lead to plaque build-up, which in turn can lead to heart attacks or angina. Fried foods, red meat and many other types fatty foods can all compromise the heart's health. The NHLBI reported that sugary foods like cakes and cookies can also be detrimental to the heart, especially for anyone living with diabetes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a diet rich in natural, fresh fruits and vegetables is best for maintaining good heart health. Other foods like whole grain pasta or bread are also helpful. Fat found in nuts, eggs or olive oil are also great alternatives to saturated fats in foods like butter or bacon.

Exercise
The CDC reported that other major risk factors for developing heart disease or cardiac problems include obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All of these can be improved through a change in diet, but to really fight off excess weight, finding time to get regular exercise is critically important.

Seniors should consult with a doctor before beginning any new workout routine, and there are a number of ways to stay active and healthy without pushing the body too hard. Activities like yoga and walking are excellent for keeping active and starting small.

Everyday Health stated that seniors should try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Along with being beneficial to heart health, regular physical activity can improve balance and flexibility in older adults as well.

Minimizing stress
Not only can prolonged anxiety and anger lead to unhealthy eating habits, but stress is also a serious risk factor for developing heart problems. Everyday Health reported that lowering stress can be an important step in minimizing any risks associated with cardiac disease.

Stress can be brought on by any number of lifestyle or environmental causes, and there are easy ways to lower any continued stressful emotions. Simple things like deep breathing and meditation can be very effective at lowering anxiety or unhappy thoughts. Finding the presence of mind to calm down when feeling angry or upset is important, but regular meditation at a set time each day can lower stress hormones in the body.

Other activities like tai chi or yoga are low-impact ways to engage the body and lower stress levels, and physical activity across the board is a great way to ward off anxiety.

Hobbies like painting or knitting can be therapeutic as well, the Mayo Clinic reported. These are fun and easy ways to keep stress levels low and in turn protect your heart. This winter, consider picking up a new hobby or exercise to better manage stress and keep healthy.

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