February is American Heart Month, and Club Bethesda encourages older adults to show their heart some love by being active, to help keep their heart healthy and protected from disease.
About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease every year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. People age 65 and older are more likely than younger people to suffer a heart attack, have a stroke, or develop heart disease and heart failure. Heart disease is a major cause of disability and can limit activity and erode the quality of life of millions of older people, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Leading a heart-healthy lifestyle – including being physically active, which Club Bethesda encourages – can help people avoid, delay or reverse the risk of heart disease, according to the National Institute on Aging.
American Heart Month is an ideal time review the causes, risks and symptoms of heart disease, as well as what steps older adults can take to help prevent it.
Causes of heart disease
The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions.
Hypertension and advancing age increase the risk of developing the build-up of fatty deposits, or plaque, in the walls of the arteries. When this happens, there is less space for blood to flow and deliver oxygen to the heart. This can cause angina (chest pain or discomfort) or a heart attack. Over time, the heart muscle can become weakened and/or damaged, resulting in heart failure.
Diabetes and chronic, heavy alcohol use also can cause heart damage. Other factors, such as thyroid disease or chemotherapy, might also weaken the heart.
In addition, age can cause changes in the heart’s electrical system that can lead to arrhythmias – a rapid, slowed, or irregular heartbeat – and/or the need for a pacemaker, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Heart disease can develop silently and sometimes is not diagnosed until people experience symptoms. Common symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:
- Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
- Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).
- Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.
Additional symptoms can include lightheadedness, confusion, headaches, cold sweats, and numbness and/or tingling in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back.
Lower your risk
According to a study in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation, adults age 65 who maintain or boost their level of physical
activity can improve their heart’s electrical well-being and lower their risk of heart attack, according to Dr. Luisa Soares-Miranda, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and the Faculty of Sport at the University of Porto in Portugal.
“Any physical activity is better than none, but maintaining or increasing your activity has added heart benefits as you age,” Soares-Miranda said.
The National Institute on Aging also suggests people:
- Be more physically active. If possible, aim to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
- If you smoke, quit. Quitting, even in later life, can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke over time.
- Follow a heart-healthy diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber and low in sodium and added sugar.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Balance the calories you eat and drink with the calories you burn.
- Keep your diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol under control. Follow your doctor’s advice to manage these conditions and take medications as directed.
- Limit alcohol intake. Men should not have more than two drinks a day and women only one.
- Manage stress. Learn to relax and cope with problems.
Club Bethesda offers heart-healthy options
To help older adults remain physically active and keep their heart healthy, Bethesda offers Club Bethesda – a fitness and wellness facility in Willmar. Membership is open to anyone age 50 and older living in Willmar and the surrounding area. Club Bethesda helps older adults keep their heart healthy through a variety of forms of exercise and activities.
“Club Bethesda is equipped with state-of-the-art exercise machines that are geared toward older adults, as well as a warm-water pool for exercise,” said Melissa Wentzel, wellness director. “The Club offers a variety of fitness classes for every fitness level. Physical activity can help people lower their risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and several types of cancer. Come try our exercise machines or attend one of our classes and take care of your heart.”
People should ask their doctor about their risk for heart disease and what they can do about it.
Contact Club Bethesda at (320) 214-5647 for information about membership options and services.