Aging well is not simply about remaining at home for as long as possible. It is about enjoying a higher quality of life. Doing this involves remaining engaged with family and friends and feeling valued throughout every stage of life.
The Correlation between Aging Well and Healthy Living
For many seniors, there is a strong correlation between how well they age and how healthy they are. Heart and brain health are important components in this. With a healthier heart, seniors are better able to maintain a healthy energy level. They avoid many of the most common medications and enjoy greater independence too. Since the brain is responsible for so much of the body’s functioning including emotions, memory and movement, keeping this essential organ healthy is important too.
According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the number one killer in America. Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, and strokes also rank in the top 6. The risk of diagnosis for these diseases increases with age. So, it is essential to use preventative measures to stay healthy.
How Heart Health and Brain Health Are Related
Considering the high level of risk associated with these conditions, it is worth considering if they are in any way related. According to the University of Western Ontario, people who have had a stroke are twice as likely to experience a condition called vascular dementia. Why is this? It happens because a stroke reduces blood flow to the brain for a period of time. When this disruption occurs, the brain is damaged, sometimes permanently and irreversibly.
Preventing a Stroke
As part of this study, researchers monitored seniors and looked at those who used preventative measures to avoid having a stroke. A decline in the number diagnosed with dementia was noted. It is also worth mentioning that seniors who reduced rates of diabetes, blood clots and other cardiovascular disease also were less likely to develop vascular dementia. Overall, a healthy diet and exercise program kept these individuals healthier. It also helped them to avoid dangerous cognitive decline.
The Importance of Diet
According to the National Stroke Association, making dietary changes is one simple way in which seniors can reduce their risk of experiencing a stroke. The organization recommends a diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, lean proteins and olive oil or other heart healthy oils. Avoiding sugar, trans-fats and sodium is also ideal. This is usually accomplished by eating more fresh meals and less processed foods. Doing that is difficult for some seniors. However, keeping to these guidelines is important and made easier with the help of a family member, meal delivery service or professional caregiver.
Another important component to a healthy living plan is exercise. Staying active keeps the heart pumping, helps individuals to avoid obesity and improves blood flow throughout the body. Ideally, adult of all ages should have a goal of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Walking, swimming, yoga or lifting light weights are ideal options. Seniors who are currently less active, unstable or those who have been diagnosed with a health condition are advised to speak with their doctor before increasing activity. Some might benefit from a consult with a physical therapist or personal trainer. Others might find exercise safer with in home care assistance from an accredited agency like Salus Homecare Orange County.
How Bad Habits Hurt
The third step in living better to avoid a stroke is to make a few additional healthy lifestyle choices. Seniors who smoke are encouraged to quit. If excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed on a regular basis, it is important to cut back or quit. Professional assistance and encouragement from family and friends are often helpful for seniors taking these steps.
Heart health and brain health are important for every senior who wants to remain independent and continue to enjoy a higher quality of life. Research now teaches us that these two health concerns are also related. Remember that it is never too late to make changes and improve your outcomes. Talk to your doctor, make a goal of eating more whole food and less processed meals and get the support you need to partake in daily activity. If you smoke, quit, and if you drink, do so only in moderation. Start small and work with your doctor to make big improvements that will positively impact your health and quality of life.