how-to-help-your-loved-one-with-eating-after-a-stroke

How To Help Your Loved One With Eating After A Stroke In Carmel, IN

Providing Nutritional Help After a Stroke

Oftentimes, people in stroke care have challenges when eating. It could be a problem with chewing or swallowing, or it may be a matter of bringing food to the mouth. When a stroke creates memory loss, the stroke victim might even forget to eat.

Check with the doctor if you need help with a meal plan for stroke care and consider the following tips, as well:

Encourage Eating

  • Create daily meal times. Your meals will be more palatable if you dine with your loved one at the table, too. It can be an enjoyable routine to look forward to, as long as you maintain your patience, allowing your loved one to take as much time as needed with the meal.
  • Offer meals when your loved one is most likely to eat. Maybe late afternoon is better for dinner than the evening?
  • Offer nutrient-dense foods. Provide your loved one healthy, whole foods to rebuild strength.
  • Watch for preferences. Certainly, we all prefer certain foods over others so if he or she favors an item that’s easier to chew or swallow, plus it provides nutritional value, this is a good meal to offer!

Softer Food Can Be Easier

  • Fruits and vegetables: Try pureeing or blending nutritional whole foods with additional spices or flavorings for the best taste while assisting in stroke care.
  • Try yogurt: Yogurt is usually a good choice since it’s easy to eat and digestible.
  • Oatmeal might be easy: Oatmeal can be a better choice over grains like bread or rice that can be hard to swallow.
  • Easy eggs: Scrambled or soft-boiled eggs provide protein and other beneficial nutrients.
  • Custard and gelatin desserts: Most people enjoy something sweet on occasion but anything with a low nutritional value should be only offered on occasion.
  • Liquid meal replacements: Ready-made shakes high in protein or meal replacement supplements are easier for stroke care patients who can’t easily chew or swallow.
  • Avoid sticky or dry foods: Stay away from peanut butter, rice, or anything that becomes too sticky in the mouth, creating a problem with swallowing. Utensils with cushioned or specialized grips make it easier for a stroke victim to eat independently.

Don’t Hesitate to Seek Help

You may need outside assistance while offering stroke care to a loved one. Reach out to your local Home Care Assistance location in Carmel, IN at (317) 316-0804 to inquire about additional care or meal assistance during this challenging time.

protecting-seniors-from-scams

Protecting Seniors From Scams

Unfortunately, scammers typically prey upon persons in senior care because of the aging adult’s likelihood to be generous and compassionate. Financial scams may occur by phone, email, internet or even in person.

Retirees in senior care must be especially cautious about their financial security.  Older people are often on fixed incomes with smaller savings. Money scams can create a hard blow to their future lifestyle and wellbeing. When an older adult loses a great financial sum, their children or grandchildren may feel the consequences, too, as they end up helping out to cover the losses.

What can you do to keep your older loved ones in senior care protected from the scammers? Speak with your aging parents about the common scams so they can be wary of these tricksters. It’s easy to fall for schemes. They are so well-practiced that it can happen to people of any age. Remind them to investigate thoroughly before releasing any monies. Keep them comfortable knowing they can contact you for help any time something is suspicious. Empower them by reminding them to hang up on solicitors, don’t reply to emails from people they don’t know.

Scams have been around forever and there are some common ones that you and your family members can learn about:

  • Bogus winnings – fake lotteries, contests, or free prizes. These scammers really want account information, so they may request shipping or other fees in an attempt to retrieve credit card or bank account details.
  • Phony charities – relief from natural disasters or needed medical support. Certainly, there are donation sites that are wonderful supports for these causes, but there are also criminals who want to capitalize on the unfortunate situation.
  • Family impersonators – grandchildren, nieces, or nephews calling because of an accident, or even in jail. These callers say they’re desperate and ask for a prepaid gift card or a wire transfer. Keep in mind this is a red flag!
  • Door-to-door salespeople – Selling gimmicks, fake magazine subscriptions, or even roof or other home repairs. Those who get sucked in may have a lot to lose.

Scammers access money, credit cards, and personal information from people in senior care in a variety of ways. Keep your conversations open to aging loved ones and let them know you are just looking out for their best interests. Remind them to be skeptical of strangers and ask questions.

In-home care can provide an additional level of help because caregivers are trained to watch for signs of mail or phone scams for the person in senior care. Learn more about in-home care by contacting Home Care Assistance of Carmel, IN.

5-benefits-of-assisted-living

5 Benefits to Living with Caregiver Assistance

It’s not unusual for an aging adult to initially reject assistance after realizing that additional help is needed around the home. Once the advantages to senior care are understood, people are usually more agreeable and open-minded. A caregiver can increase the level of personal safety for an older adult, as well as offer additional social engagement. Both are vital to health and wellbeing.

Here are just 5 reasons to consider hiring a caregiver for a loved one’s senior care:

  1. A caregiver provides another level of safety.

As adults increase in age, there’s also an increase in the risks of living alone. The likelihood of falling, suffering stroke or heart attack is real. Fortunately, when there is a caregiver at home – whether in a private home or in an assisted living community – emergency support arrives faster because the caregiver is able to dial for help and communicate with emergency responders.

  1. Caregivers eliminate isolation.

Everyone needs to be engaged in conversation, but it’s especially important for those in senior care. A caregiver increases the social time of an aging adult. Loneliness is known to have negative emotional and cognitive consequences, and should be avoided. Isolation is even connected to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

  1. Visit more friends and family.

When an adult doesn’t drive, he or she might be left out of family events, simply because transportation can be difficult. A hired caregiver can drive the aging adult so he or she is more likely to attend family birthday parties and other happy occasions. An adult feels free and independent when not feeling like a burden.

  1. Caregivers can help with the home.

Tasks around the home used to be easy, but older adults needing senior care find it an impossible challenge. A private caregiver can help with the daily cleaning and meals. This can be the best solution for a tidy home with homecooked meals.

  1. Caregivers are the best alternative to assisted living communities.

Older adults needing additional senior care have the options of moving to an assisted living community or staying at home to age with caregiving assistance. Many older people prefer to stay in the comfort of their familiar home as long as they can. Caregivers are a perfect solution for someone who doesn’t need full medical care and attention.

caregiving-why-is-routine-important

Caregiving: Why Is Routine Important?

A Quality Caregiver Will Prioritize Routine

Predictable schedules reduce stress for everyone, but especially the elderly. Have you heard the expression, “creatures of habit?” A caregiver that provides consistency will help aging adults remember what’s ahead and it brings a sense of comfort to them. If an older adult suffers from dementia, daily routines are that much more important.

Benefits of a Structured Routine

Structured schedules for dining, bathing, and dressing provide feelings of safety for most seniors. They typically sleep better with regular sleep and wake up times, as well.

A caregiver quickly realizes that elderly adults who suffer from dementia are less confused with routines, too. They may not remember what they did earlier that day, yet they seem to subconsciously sense what’s coming next in the day. This helps with behavioral challenges, as well, since regularly scheduled dining prevents extreme hunger and reduces stress and anxiety in dementia patients.

As a caregiver keeps a regular schedule, there’s less planning to do and more of each moment with the person being cared for is appreciated.

Plan a Daily/Weekly Routine

Consider the adult first 

If you are a caregiver, consider the person being cared for when planning meals, daily care or activities. Know the time of day when the person functions best. If the older adult already has a routine that’s been ritualized for years, why try to change it now? If waking up early for toast and coffee is what he or she is accustomed to, just follow this ingrained routine. Keep familiar routines as much as possible.

Flexibility is needed

A daily/weekly routine is vital, but flexibility will be needed, too. There will be occasions when the older person doesn’t feel well and they may need additional rest. On better days, an impromptu activity like a walk might be just right.

Keep variety with activities 

Schedule activities for each week, but offer some variety, too, like exercise, cognitive challenges, spiritual nourishment and social time. Discover hobbies that were pursued in the past. Perhaps there are modifications that can be applied to anything that is now too difficult.

Everything in its place

Rearranging personal belongings in the home will likely cause confusion and frustration for your elderly adult. Caregivers should only move things around as needed for safety.

Perhaps you could benefit from some assistance as a caregiver? Home Care Assistance can provide in-home care to help the older adult with as little or as much as you need. Call Home Care Assistance at (317) 316-0804 and get started.

how-to-tell-the-difference-between-delirium-and-dementia

How To Tell The Difference Between Delirium And Dementia

Cognitive confusion and emotional distress can both be symptoms of delirium and dementia, making it easy for these two illnesses to be confused with each other. The two are distinctly different, however, and it’s a priority for caregivers, medical, and emergency support to understand the difference. Delirium is especially serious and common for older persons. It’s a common complication of hospital admission for the elderly.

What is delirium?

Delirium can be described as an acute problem with a display of confusion, disrupted attention, disordered speech and even hallucinations. Delirium is diagnosed by clinical observation of patient behaviors and medical help must be obtained immediately when a family member, friend or loved one displays potential symptoms. It’s usually temporary and most likely reversible once the underlying cause is treated.

The following are common causes of delirium:

  • Head trauma
  • Drug interactions
  • Infections
  • Dehydration
  • Liver failure
  • Brain tumors

Delirium is commonly found in facilities or hospitals that offer senior care. It can also be triggered by drug or alcohol abuse, UTIs, and pneumonia. Surgery or any procedure using anesthesia, high fevers, sleep deprivation, and severe emotional stress can be problematic, also.

Symptoms of delirium:

  • Behavioral displays of emotional disturbance
  • Fluctuating or drastic mood changes
  • Sudden behavioral changes (e.g. hyperactivity)
  • Inattention or distraction
  • Disorganized thinking or cognitive problems
  • Reduced awareness of the environment
  • Delusions or hallucinations

How can one recognize delirium from dementia?

Delirium and dementia at a glance may seem similar, but delirium starts abruptly and fluctuates in intensity, from day to day or hour to hour.

Dementia develops over long periods of time, beginning slowly with mental decline, and is irreversible.

Dementia and delirium both appear as mental confusion, so how can you recognize the difference?

Why is it important to understand the difference?

Delirium is many times a warning sign of serious medical problems. It may even be an adverse reaction to a medication leading to a medical emergency. Delirium must be quickly treated, or it may create permanent complications or even death.

Delirium goes too often unseen or unrecognized by medical professionals. The symptoms can be too easily attributed to dementia, instead of the acute problem that it is. Immediate medical help must be sought when symptoms of delirium are present.

Many dementia patients develop delirium during hospitalization, but all that one can do is create a quiet, safe and comfortable environment.

Does the senior in your life need dementia care in Carmel, IN?

Call Home Care Assistance of Carmel at (317) 316-0804 and let us provide you with a top of the line dementia care provider for your loved one.

keep-active-while-aging

Keeping Active is Important at Any Age

Keeping active is important at any age. Physical activity improves balance, strength, and cardiovascular health. Additionally, active people reduce their chance of chronic disease. Anyone can increase their health and vitality, regardless of age!

Experts typically recommend at least 150 minutes of weekly exercise for adults. Start slowly and gradually increase frequency and intensity.

Walking is a Perfect Exercise

Walking is a perfect exercise for every age. No gym membership is required, and it’s free! Aging adults can walk in their neighborhood or find nature areas with trails. Walking becomes a social event when family or friends join along!

Do What You Can

Can you ride a stationary bike or walk the treadmill while watching your favorite TV show? Do what you can. Stand up for some stretching when there are commercial breaks or use hand weights to increase strength. Dance or jog to lively music to get your spirits lifted and your body moving.

Gardens Have Many Benefits

Enjoy the healthy benefits of herbs, produce and flowers from your own backyard garden! Your senses will awaken from natural fragrances. Enjoy walking, bending and stretching from planting, weeding and making cuttings for indoors. Getting out in the sunshine can provide a sense of wellbeing and efforts will literally bloom.

Golf

Walking on a golf course offers additional healthy opportunities. Get some extra bending when placing the tee and ball. Strengthen the arms and back muscles when swinging the golf club.

Swimming

Swimming is great for the cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal systems and it’s an ideal activity for anyone with arthritis or joint pain, too. Check your local pool schedule for water aerobics classes or times specifically for older adults.

Help is Available

Sometimes, older adults will need help. Seniors who want to enjoy good health as they grow older may benefit from local Home Care Assistance. Help is available for daily tasks and focusing on a more active life.

Expert caregivers can provide assistance with exercise or transporting an adult to a doctor appointment. Caregivers can make it possible for a loved one to go to a fun social event, allowing the adult to maintain a high-quality, independent life.

Family caregivers often eventually realize they can’t find enough time to engage in all the activities their loved ones want or need. Let Home Care Assistance help. Let the aging adult continue regular activities while you take a necessary, well-deserved break.

Caregivers are professionally trained in meal prep, assisting with physical activity, and personal hygiene for short-term or longer amounts of time. Specially trained caregivers are available to help seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s, too.

Call us today to learn more about our reliable in-home care for seniors.

changing-bad-habits-together

Changing Bad Habits of Elderly Parents

Can You Persuade Parents to Make Changes?

Sometimes you might worry about your parents, especially when you think they’re not getting enough activity, social interaction, or eating healthy foods. You want to help, but it seems like your opinion doesn’t even matter and you can’t persuade your parent to make changes. Sound familiar?

So, can you persuade Mom or Dad to form healthier habits? Maybe, if you learn a few persuasion techniques. For starters, if you want someone to listen to you, don’t lecture and try a simple conversation instead.

Habits Are Difficult to Change

“Habit” is defined in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary as “a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior.” A healthy habit might be a morning walk. Demanding a change of behavior from a parent – or anyone else – won’t do any good! It’s not easy to let go of a familiar patterned behavior!

It’s Not Easy to Change

So, don’t you have some unhealthy habits? Have you ever successfully made your own lifestyle changes? Yes? Then, congrats! It’s not easy to change habits in our own lives, so trying to get someone else to change is even more of a challenge.

Be Compassionate When Asking For Change

Your parents are most likely aware of their necessary changes, so don’t nag them or irritate the situation by creating anger and resentment. It will only exasperate them and make them less willing to cooperate.

Be compassionate when asking for change. Consider their feelings and lovingly tell them that you understand their challenges and feelings.

Consider the Why

Investigate the situation a bit more and ask questions to uncover whether their lack of initiative is a reaction to recent stress. Is there a health-related issue you didn’t know about? Has there been increased isolation, creating depression and apathy? Maybe your parent doesn’t think anyone cares if they have dirty dishes. Maybe they just don’t know why they should even make an effort. Is it time for professional elderly care?

Healthy New Habits Can Replace the Old

When your parent is ready to change, then what? Teri Goetz, a writer for Psychology Today, affirms that you can’t just will yourself to change. That’s not enough. Assist your parents with a solid plan, then arm them with success tools and potential healthy behaviors that can replace the old unwanted ones.

Take smoking for an example. If and when your parent decides to quit smoking, a substituted activity, like a phone call or a walk around the block might be enough to boost willpower. Can you help them make their plan for change?

Social Connections are Powerful

Social connections are powerful, and they can help or deter efforts to change. If your parent socializes with others who smoke, it will be harder for them to quit. However, if you will offer loving elderly care by spending additional time with them for a while, you will build their sense of belonging and success. Be on their team while they create lifestyle changes. When they know you’re in their corner, it’s so much easier for them. You’ll inspire a greater optimism in your parent, as well.

Changing a habit can be hard, but we all feel better with a sense of control over our own lives.

  1. Let Your Parent Accept Help Graciously
  2. Juggling Your Parents’ Independence and Safety
  3. How to Tackle Difficult Conversations Around Care

Simplify

Changing behaviors can be tricky, but those who enjoy work in elderly care suggest this commonsense tidbit: Simplify.

B.J. Fogg , creator of the Tiny Habits® Program, says there are only three things that create long-term behavior changes:

  1. An epiphany.
  2. A change in the environment.
  3. Baby steps.

As he explains, a change in environment and baby steps are your best choices. You can change your environment and you can take baby steps. B.J. defines these things in greater detail in his program to help people accomplish small and large goals. Helping your parents attain a goal will create a sense of accomplishment for you and your parents, as well.

Who Should Start the Conversation?

Hmmm, are you sure you’re the best person to start the difficult conversation with your parents? Or, is there an ally who could help you with their elderly care? Maybe this person could bring up the subject instead of you. In the very least, you must make a plan, selecting the best time of day and a location with privacy when initiating the conversation.

Carolyn Rosenblatt, an expert in aging says that when you are assisting in parents’ elderly care, the situation might be eased by allowing the blame to fall on the adult child, rather than the parents. You’re likely to get results in your mother’s eating habits by saying something like this…

“Mom, I know I’m sometimes a pain and a worry wart, but I’m just getting so concerned about whether there’s enough quality food in the house. Would you allow me to just ask someone to stop by for a visit, run errands or do some light housekeeping for you once in a while so I can sleep better? I just love you. I’d probably sleep better if we did this.”

Offer Encouragement!

Muster up some patience with your elderly parents. Offer encouragement to them in making changes. Be compassionate and try a spirit of teamwork. Keep in mind that a sense of humor can help, too!

Resources:

  1. How to Change Unhealthy Habits, by Teri Goetz
  2. TinyHabits
  3. Persuading Our Stubborn Aging Parents, by Carolyn Rosenblatt
canstockphoto33605433

How Caregiver Burnout Damages Our Brains

What is caregiver burnout or syndrome? Can it be prevented?

Work-related stress and burnout is frequently studied and talked about, but not too much has been studied specifically to caregiver burnout. Yet, it appears that it may be more than just stressful. It can have an impact on the brain, as well.

Caregiver Burnout

Why would there be stress from caring for someone you love? Work-related stress is often acknowledged, but is it true that a caregiver can end up with damage to one’s own brain from caring for someone else? The following describes how family caregiving really can create problems for the brain, and information follows as to what can be done to prevent it, too.

What Does Caregiver Burnout Look Like?

A family caregiver’s burnout may be recognized by the same symptoms of other types of stress and depression. The symptoms can vary, and include exhaustion, anger, social withdrawal, lack of appetite, weight control issues, sleep problems, extreme fatigue, digestive concerns, lowered immune function, and more. Although you won’t find “Caregiver Syndrome” listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, healthcare professionals often use this term when describing caregiver burnout and its negative effects.

An interesting post entitled, “The Effects of Caregiver Stress on the Body and Brain,” on the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center website reports that caregiving often has a major impact on one’s overall physical health, especially when the caregiving lasts for extended periods of time.

The degree of burnout symptoms may be connected to the individual’s genetic traits, education, financial circumstances, and even previous mental conditions. With roughly 70% of caregivers suffering from depression, smart caregiving stress management must start with a self-monitoring and awareness. One must be aware of any developing symptoms, so things can be improved quickly. Just as with other chronic stress, caregiver burnout can harm the brain. Stress can trigger a chemical change in the brain that negatively impacts memory capacity and even decreases learning abilities.

Situational Versus Long-Term Stress

The role of caregiving can be challenging and is likely to test anyone’s emotions and psyche. Even short-term stress can make people irritable, anxious, tense, distracted and forgetful, but it can get worse from there. When caregivers deny their negative emotions, stress hormones (cortisol) levels can greatly increase and these elevated levels may, unfortunately, impact one’s physical, emotional and mental health in negative ways. Research on caregiver risks shows effects on immune and endocrine functioning, depression, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease and even risk of death. A Huffington Post article recently warned that severe life events may “harm your brain’s memory and learning capacity by reducing the volume of gray matter in brain regions associated with emotions, self-control and physiological functions.” Stated in plain words, chronic stress may shrink the brain.

Tips for Handling Caregiver Burnout Before It Damages your Brain

When you find stress levels climbing, consider improving your brain power with some common sense remedies offered by the Mayo Clinic:

Accept help. Take a break when it’s offered. Make an ongoing list of things that friends and family or a healthcare professional could help you with – anything from running errands, buying groceries, cooking meals, light housekeeping or simply spending time with the person you are caring for, so you can have a respite.

Take care of yourself. Chances are you are doing a fantastic job caring for your aging loved one, so don’t allow feelings of guilt to paralyze you. Don’t go for perfection. Just do your best and take care of yourself, too.

Perform a reality check. Caregivers often do too much and run themselves ragged with almost superhuman efforts. Set ample time aside to get yourself organized and go after small realistic goals. This is also a great time to learn to say “no.”

Research community resources. Once you have completed a list of your needs, search for local resources that may be available to help. You might even find a class relevant to your situation or perhaps, there may be a local support group that will help you feel like you’re not alone. Sometimes services like transportation, meal prep or delivery, and housekeeping are the answer.

Self-care. Don’t lose view of your own personal health goals. Are you getting enough sleep? Don’t leave out exercise. Eat healthy and drink enough fresh water. Don’t neglect visits to your own doctor.

Respite Care May Help

Often, giving yourself (and your brain) a break from the daily grind is the best thing you can do for yourself, so consider respite care. Respite care is defined as the temporary care of a dependent person, so that their regular caregiver has some time to recuperate and recover. Sometimes this involves in-home respite, when a professional will assist with your loved one, so you can take time to relax for a bit. Sometimes an aide provides short-term assistance while a caregiver takes a nice mini-vacation or simply spends the day taking time for walking or bicycling outdoors. Enjoying social time by visiting with friends may be just what is needed for feeling refreshed and recharged.

A family caregiver has an important and challenging task. If you are a caregiver, remember to take care of yourself and keep stress managed as much as possible. If you feel like you’re experiencing symptoms of burnout, don’t hesitate to ask for help. The best way to care for someone you love is often to look after yourself first.

Secrets for Long Lives and Relationships of Seniors in Carmel, IN

 “We never outlive our need or capacity to be useful.”

—Richard Watts

Have you wondered how important love and connection are when it comes to your life vitality? Imagine your physician giving you a prescription for good health and the script stated: “Keep yourself immersed in a community of people you love. Never stop making new friendships, yet continue to maintain old friendships, and remember to find time for family and others you love.”

Isn’t it good news that research proves it could be that simple and straightforward? Family and close friends, and human connectivity is correlated with longevity. It’s our relationships that are important for a meaningful life. Aging people who commit to staying active with others and make new friends feel valued. A retired minister, Richard Watts, was once quoted, “We never outlive our need or capacity to be useful,” and his words are true. We now understand that loving relationships are essential to our physical and mental wellbeing. Research proves that happiness and longer lives come from loving others and being loved. We humans are social creatures who benefit from interactions with people of various ages.

 

Loneliness Isn’t Good for Your Health

Healthy lifestyle changes are good for your health, but feelings of loneliness can reduce people to the depths of depression and mental illness. We need social interaction and our bodies can deteriorate from chronic inflammation without it. Inflammation can make us feel sick, which provides additional reasons to withdraw from social circumstances. In other words, loneliness compromises health by making us sick, which creates extended isolation from our friends and community.

 

Loving relationships can build our immunity, and help us to have less colds, flu or chronic illness. High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are reduced by staying connected to others, too. Apparently, our personal connections are the antidote to many illnesses. Our bodies reap benefits from hormones whether we are the loving caregiver or recipient of the loving care. In either case, a loving relationship can counteract stress and inflammation from loneliness.

 

Social Activity and Wellbeing

We are better off surrounded by others, as we are more likely to take better care of ourselves, and especially when we have things on the calendar that we are looking forward to. If our friends are active, our activity increases, too. Healthy behaviors lead to healthy habits when there’s a connection with an active group. Knowing our life purpose with a sense of future brings a positive and bright outlook, which also brings protection to our brain and body.

 

The Brain and Social Interaction

Close relationships are simply good for us. Research affirms the benefits of social interaction and how it influences brain health. Conversing with others keeps us thinking sharply since we use more brain power interacting with others. It can challenge us to remember past details and understand new things.

Elderly Carmel resident getting his heart checked by a doctor.

Practical ways for decreasing risk of heart disease

A healthy lifestyle correlates with a strong and healthy heart. Therefore, if you make even small improvements in lifestyle, chances are you will increase your heart health.

There are a staggering 17,000,000 deaths worldwide each year as a result of heart disease. Yet, up to 80% of these sad and untimely deaths may be prevented. Symptoms of heart disease often sneak up quietly and unnoticed before the damage is realized.

Heart attacks and other heart disease symptoms can certainly alter your plans for the future. You may choose to remain ignorant or you can take the time to learn more about heart disease. Then, once you learn about it and understand what you can do to prevent it, you have another choice. Sit around and worry about what might happen to you or do the work to prevent it and actively decrease your risk of heart disease by making necessary changes to improve your overall health.

 

Causes of Poor Heart Health

Though humans have been studying heart health for many years, there aren’t really any new surprises on the causes of heart disease. Atherosclerosis is still the worst offender, as it is a buildup of plaque in the lining of arteries. The plaque hardens and narrows the arteries over time, decreasing the blood flow to organs and tissues that are vitally important. Eventually, the heart and blood vessels have become damaged.

Three lifestyle habits are responsible for atherosclerosis:

  • Poor diet choices
  • Not enough exercise
  • Smoking

These three bad habits, along with a big dose of stress can equal heart disease. The good news is that some risk factors, like age and genetics, may not be in your control, but lifestyle habits and daily choices are, and you DO have the power to make healthy changes!

Takeaway tip: Understand the causes of heart disease. Understand your own personal behaviors that could increase your own risk of heart problems. Then, make a plan for change.

 

How to Prevent Heart Problems

Diet

The human body thrives on fresh and nutritious food. Healthy food primes your body for achieving optimal health. Alternately, poor eating habits can slow you down, clogging arteries with plaque, creating high blood pressure problems, and raising cholesterol levels beyond healthy limits, as well. Pack your diet with healthy fats, and use less salt and sugar to improve better heart health.

Doctor-recommended food plans for better heart health are the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan3 and the Mediterranean Diet. They’re slightly different, yet their foundations are similar.

Best diets for heart health always encourage:

  • Vegetables, especially greens, broccoli, cabbage and carrots
  • Colorful fruits like apples, berries, melons and oranges and citrus fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Quality proteins
  • Coldwater fish
  • Eggs
  • Healthy fats (nuts, seeds and avocado)

Nutrient dense whole foods will help you feel satiated. If you find yourself with cravings, don’t give in to foods or drinks heavy in salt, sugar and alcohol.

Takeaway Tip: Select one nutrient dense whole food to add into your diet this week. At the same time, choose one processed food you will eliminate or at least cut back on eating. It’s feasible to make both changes at one time! For example, maybe you will start eating a bowl of fresh fruit for breakfast instead of a blueberry muffin filled with sugar.

 

Get More Exercise

Physical activity can help us stay healthy. Get up and move around during the day as much as possible. It’s good for us and it helps to lessen four common risk factors for heart disease.

Increased exercise:

  • may decrease high cholesterol levels
  • can lower blood pressure
  • helps with weight loss
  • lowers the likelihood of type 2 diabetes

Once you know this, you may feel motivated to get more exercise. Two and a half hours per week or just 20 minutes per day is typically recommended by experts. Your heartbeat should be elevated for at least 10 minutes at a time. Of course, an easy exercise is walking, but swimming, dancing, bicycling and weight lifting are healthy choices, too.

Takeaway Tip: Try adding at least 5 minutes of additional activity to your day at first. Turn on the music and enjoy some dancing in your own living room! Little things count, too. Even when you go out to the mailbox, walk a little faster!

 

Smoking

Just stop! Do it for your heart! Nicotine reduces the size of blood vessels. That allows your carbon monoxide to effectively destroy the insides of the heart vessels. Smoking creates a steeper risk of heart disease for people.4

Sure, it’s a challenge to break the habit, but still, it’s a habit, which means it is a lifestyle choice. In other words, it’s all within your control. Of course, it’s hard to quit… but still, it’s possible to do, and many people do quit every day. Ask your doctor about programs or products that could potentially help with cessation.

Takeaway Tip: Understand your reasons for wanting to quit smoking. Maybe you want to stop so you can generally feel better, or maybe to play more with your grandkids? Decide on what best motivates you, then create a post-it note reminder where you’ll see it often.

 

Stress

High levels of body inflammation are created from prolonged stress. You can reduce and manage stress before your arteries become damaged. Research proves that highly charged emotional situations often precede heart attacks! If coping with stress means that you’ll drink more alcohol, smoke, suppress emotions and make poor food choices, take advantage of some better strategies for relieving stress.

Try:

  • Talking to a mental health provider for new coping strategies
  • Practicing meditation
  • Increasing daily physical activity
  • Releasing hurts and frustrations
  • Enjoying your relationships with full intention

Sometimes, life’s challenges aren’t within our control, but our response is within our control.

Takeaway Tip: How do you deal with life’s stressors? Feel ready to make some changes? Try making one sweet and simple new habit, like writing down five things you’re thankful for when you awake, or practice 30 seconds of deep breathing if anxious feelings arise.

 

Learn all you can about prevention of heart disease. Understand your own risk factors. Know what you’re up against if you don’t make necessary lifestyle changes, then focus on something you’re willing to change. Take a moment to think about heart disease risks that are most likely to affect you. Then, take one simple step at a time. Even one healthy new habit can make a difference!