February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on the daily habits and activities that can decrease high blood pressure, reduce the risks of heart disease, and contribute to a heart-healthy lifestyle.
At Uplands Village, our life plan community is uniquely designed to meet the health and wellness needs of our residents. With a state-of-the-art Wellness Center, community gardens and parks, and many opportunities for enrichment and personal development, Uplands Village provides a healthy environment for older adults to thrive.
In honor of American Heart Month, we are sharing the best tips and strategies to keep your heart healthy – not just for this month but all year long.
Maintain a Heart Healthy Diet
Heart health begins with the fuel you put in your body. The National Council on Aging recommends that a heart-healthy diet should contain a variety of foods, ensuring that you receive all the essential nutrients you need.
- Lean protein – fish, eggs, beans, some lean meats
- Fruits and vegetables – dark green, purple, and red vegetables are best
- Whole grains – brown rice, whole wheat bread, and pasta
- Low-fat dairy – milk and yogurt
The USDA has created a comprehensive guide called My Plate for a visual breakdown of the proper foods to include in a heart-healthy diet.
It is important to not only choose the right foods – but to select the appropriate portions. Although the American Heart Association does not give strict dietary requirements, they provide helpful guidelines for choosing the right portions. They emphasize a heart-healthy diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, and fresh fruits, with smaller portions of low-fat dairy and lean protein.
Get Regular Exercise
A heart-healthy diet is the best starting point to reduce high blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. But lifestyle choices play an essential role as well. Researchers at Harvard University and The Heart Foundation recommend 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week. This can include brisk walks, weight training, or aerobics exercise.
Uplands Village offers many ways for residents to achieve their daily exercise goals. Our life plan community in Cumberland County features several outdoor walking trails, ideal for maintaining a healthy lifestyle while enjoying the beauty of the natural world. In addition, our Wellness Center and water aerobics facility offer many options for strength training and cardiovascular exercise.
Not only does regular exercise improve heart health, but it also improves your mood and decreases stress! Each one of these benefits is important to a healthy lifestyle.
Do Not Skip Sleep
Exercise is essential, but so is rest. Unfortunately, sleep is often overlooked when it comes to heart health. According to the CDC, one in three Americans reports not getting the recommended amount of sleep (seven hours) each night. Over time, the results can be severe.
Lack of sleep is a contributing factor in high blood pressure as well as unhealthy weight gain, leading to a variety of health problems. Sleep conditions such as insomnia and sleep apnea can be relieved with the right medical intervention, so don’t hesitate to visit your doctor if you regularly wake up during the night.
Sleep is a necessity, not an indulgence. The CDC offers several recommendations to help you improve the duration and quality of your sleep:
- Set a sleep schedule – Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even weekends.
- Get enough exercise – Consider going for a walk during lunchtime or in the morning, but avoid exercising within two hours of going to sleep.
- Avoid artificial light – Turn off the television and put away the smart devices at least an hour before going to sleep.
- Do not eat right before bed – Avoid sugar, caffeine, and alcohol in the evening.
- Start a routine – Teach your body to wind down at the end of the day, and keep your room dark and cool to promote deep sleep.
By following these strategies, you can sleep better, improve your mood and mental health, and maintain a healthy heart.
Live with Purpose
One of the greatest contributors to heart health – as well as an overall healthy and fulfilling lifestyle – is to live with purpose. This can take many forms but often involves some combination of lifelong learning, working toward a vocation or a purpose, and maintaining strong relationships and social engagements.
The American Heart Association recently discussed the dangers of social isolation, noting that isolation can lead to increased stress, the development of unhealthy behaviors, and a greater risk of hypertension and heart disease. Fortunately, you can combat social isolation in many ways.
- Learning a new skill
- Spending time with family and friends
- Joining a community group or organization
When you live with purpose, you not only help yourself but the people around you. Studies have shown that these types of social engagements reduce stress and contribute to a heart-healthy life.
At Uplands Village, we help our residents stay active and socially engaged with many opportunities throughout our life plan community. Whether they are enjoying time at our on-site churches, taking a course at our Lifelong Learning Institute, or volunteering at our assisted living facilities, our residents have the chance to make lasting connections and live with purpose every day.
Take Care of Your Heart
As we celebrate American Heart Month, take the time to care for your heart! By following these tips and strategies – keeping a heart-healthy diet, getting regular exercise and sleep, and living with purpose – you can improve your health and wellness.
We invite you to contact Uplands Village to learn more about how our life plan community helps older adults maintain heart-healthy lifestyles!