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Heart Healthy in February


February is heart health month. Here are some considerations for seniors and their overall heart health.

For people 65 and older, the risk of heart disease is greater due to a condition known as atherosclerosis – a build-up of plaque in the arteries that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. But simple lifestyle changes can help improve heart health and limit the risk of developing cardiac issues. Choosing to eat healthy foods, reduce levels of dietary salt and fat, and regular exercise can help reduce risk factors. 

senior heart health month february

More than 1 million people in the United States suffer from a heart attack each year.  To highlight the importance of knowing the signs of a heart attack, Comfort Keepers of Anoka and White Bear Lake is providing seniors with care tips and resources during February--American Heart Month.

Approximately half of all Americans have a key risk factor for heart disease.  Whether that is high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, or a history of smoking.  Paying attention to this aspect of a senior’s health is important and necessary.  

Know the Signs of a Heart Attack

Most of us have a specific idea of what a heart attack looks like.  While some heart attacks do happen suddenly many start slowly with pain or discomfort.  A person can have symptoms for hours before they even realize they’re having a heart attack. Knowing what signs to look at can save critical time.Heart attack warning from American Heart Assoc.

Heart Attacks in Women

As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain (angina) or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.  According to the Cleveland Clinic here are some other signs to look out for:

  1. Women, in particular, can have pain in either arm ― not just the left one like many men.
  2. Pain in the lower or upper back often starts in the chest and spreads to these areas.
  3. The pain is sometimes sudden, not due to physical exertion, and can wake you up at night.
  4. You may feel the pain that is specific to the left, lower side of the jaw. 


The Role of Nutrition in Heart Health

As with many diseases, proper nutrition is a key way to improve heart health.  When it comes to food, if it tastes good we are willing to eat it without any hesitancy.  If it tastes a little off or looks bad then we aren’t so sure. Here are 4 new recipes that look and taste good to help you eat a more heart-healthy diet.  You can find any number of heart-healthy diet books available online or at a local bookstore.  Be sure to ask your doctor or nutritionist if any diet is right for you and your current health situation.

Foods you can add to your diet

  • Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries are all beneficial when it comes to your heart, due primarily to their plentiful supply of antioxidants – which reduce damage caused by free radicals in the body.
  • Oranges: The potassium found in oranges helps to maintain blood pressure, while the pectin (a high source of water-soluble fiber found in the pith and pulp) collects the cholesterol from ingested food, reducing absorption. Additionally, recent research indicates that citrus pectin aids in neutralizing galectin-3, a protein that damages heart tissue.
  • Apples: Comparing apples to oranges may not be such a bad idea after all, as the former also contains pectin. Its fiber content also aids in removing cholesterol. With all of its benefits together, daily apple consumption can reduce LDL cholesterol by 40%.
  • Nuts: Although nuts have a high level of fat, it is primarily monounsaturated and helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Nuts also contain essential vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid, niacin, vitamin B, and vitamin E – all of which aid in helping the heart.
  • Avocados: Similar to nuts, avocados are full of monounsaturated fats that help to reduce LDL cholesterol. The one downside is that avocados contain a high number of calories, so it’s best to consume in moderation.
  • Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids – often found in salmon, trout, and other cold water fish – work to simultaneously reduce triglycerides and raise HDL. Sardines, in particular, are said to provide the greatest number of Omega-3 fatty acids, compared to other cold-water fish. Note that the American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish at least twice a week.
  • Asparagus: Similar to berries and other fruits and vegetables, asparagus is full of free radical-neutralizing antioxidants. It’s also a great source of vitamins A, C, E, and K, fiber, and beta-carotene. Just be sure not to overcook or boil it for too long, as this can compromise the nutritional content.
  • Oatmeal: Unprocessed oatmeal – free of added sugar – can reduce cholesterol due to its beta-glucan content. Try adding fresh berries to your oatmeal for flavor and added benefits.
  • Red Wine: Resveratrol, an antioxidant-rich compound found in certain berries and grapes, is what makes red wine heart-healthy, but most health professionals advise drinking no more than one glass a day. Anything past that and one’s risk of heart and liver damage can increase.
  • Dark Chocolate: The flavonoids found in cocoa – chocolate’s plant source – can reduce blood pressure, maintain blood flow, and relax the arteries. To get the most out of dark chocolate, choose a bar that is at least 70% cocoa. Be sure that cocoa is the first listed ingredient, as opposed to sugar. 

Medications and Therapies

Did you know that over 40% of all prescribed medications and therapies, after a hospital stay, are discontinued by the patient without informing their doctor?  Reasons may include cost, feeling better, or indifference to whether the medication is working or not.  Doctors urge their patients to stay with their course of medication and discuss any issues with them.  Additionally, people that take their medications correctly have half the rate of re-hospitalization for the same illness over a 30 day period. 

February is national healthy heart month!  Knowing the signs of a heart attack and steps you can take to prevent them can help you and your loved ones live healthier.  



American Heart Association

Mayo Clinic

Comfort Keepers 

Cleveland Clinic

National Institute on Health