Taking Care of Your Heart

By Chelsea Couch

Texercise program coordinator

February is American Heart Month, which is a great time to learn about how to keep your heart healthy. People 65 and older are much more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke and to develop coronary heart disease than younger people. The good news is there are things you can do to keep your heart healthy.

Nutrition is an important part of heart health. The American Heart Association recommends a diet with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, healthy sources of protein, minimally processed foods, and minimal salt and sugar intake. To make shopping for heart healthy foods easier, look for the heart check (red heart with white checkmark) on food items. This represents the food has been certified by AHA as heart healthy. Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate website (myplate.gov) for more healthy eating recommendations for healthy aging.

Engaging in regular physical activity is another lifestyle behavior important for heart health. The U.S. Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines[1] recommend older adults get at least 150 minutes (30 minutes per day, five days per week) of moderate physical activity. Regular cardio-based physical activity can improve the heart’s blood flow in the small vessels around it, where fatty deposits can cause blockages over time.

The Texas Health and Human Services Texercise initiative has a variety of free resources that engage older Texans in healthy lifestyle behaviors, including physical activity and healthy eating habits. Texercise provides a variety of fact sheets highlighting topics such as sodium reduction, keeping fitness fun, tobacco cessation, etc. as well as four exercise videos that older Texans can follow along with at home. Visit www.texercise.com to learn more.

Other preventive behaviors that can assist in keeping your heart healthy include:

  • Quitting and avoiding tobacco products (smoking, vaping, etc.)
  • Practicing stress reduction strategies (taking slow deep breaths, go for a walk, practicing mindfulness, etc.)
  • Getting adequate sleep (7–8 hours per night)
  • Getting regular checkups with your primary care provider

HHS has other resources to support older Texans with healthy aging, including:

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program assists people with buying the food they need for good health. To learn more about SNAP, visit yourtexasbenefits.com.
  • Area Agencies on Aging provide older adults, their families and caregivers with nutrition services, like home and congregate meals as well as evidence-based fitness programs. To connect with the nearest AAA call Texas HHS at 800-252-9240.
  • Aging and Disability Resource Centers are part of the No Wrong Door System and help streamline access to long-term services and support for the whole family. To learn more, call Texas HHS at 855-937-2372.