5 heart healthy habits for seniors

As we get older, wrinkles and grey hairs may be inevitable but heart disease doesn’t have to be.

15 September 2014
by Annie Brookstone

It’s never too early to start looking after your heart – or too late! According to Jessica Byrne, a registered dietician at the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, here’s how seniors should be caring for their heart health:

1. Ban the salt shaker

South Africans eat almost twice the amount of salt that is recommended. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, and South Africa has one of the highest rates of high blood pressure worldwide, with almost eight out of 10 people over the age of 50 living with high blood pressure.

Take the salt grinder or shaker off the table – the easiest way to reduce your salt intake is to stop adding salt at the table. Continue doing this for a few weeks and your taste buds will start to adjust.

2. Read before you eat

Get out those specs because reading food packaging can help you make the healthy choice. Use the ingredient list to help choose foods that are lower in salt. Look out for words that indicate that salt has been added, including: salt, any ingredient with “sodium”, MSG, baking powder or baking soda. If any of these appear in the first three ingredients, the food is likely to be high in salt.

Look out for the Heart Mark-logo: this denotes that these foods are lower in unhealthy fats, cholesterol, sugar and salt, and higher in fibre (where applicable), making these healthier choices for your heart.

3. Up your fibre

Fibre plays a very important role in our general health, but also in our heart health. Fibre slows down absorption of food, making you feel fuller for longer and controlling energy levels. Upping your fibre intake can also improve your cholesterol levels and help to ward off diabetes.

Aim for five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, and exchange refined grains for whole grains, as these are good sources of fibre.

4. It’s never too late to start being active

So don’t delay! Being active doesn’t necessarily equal sweating on the treadmill in the gym. Activity should be something that’s practical, sustainable and enjoyable for you. It could be dancing in the living room with your grandchildren, weekly gardening or a walk around the neighbourhood.

The trick is to schedule in regular activities, but also improvise where you can. Aim for 150 minutes a week, but decide how you want to fit this into your lifestyle – it can mean as little as 10 minutes of physical activity several times a day on some days, to a couple of longer sessions during the course of the week.

5. Know your numbers

Old age can put you at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Be sure to have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked annually, or more regularly if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Also have your blood sugar (glucose) checked at least every three years. This may be a warning that you’re at risk for heart disease or stroke. Have you had a check this year? If not, remember that Clicks Clinics offer blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol screenings. Click here to find a Clicks Clinic near you. 

For more heart health information, call the Heart and Stroke Health Line on 0860 1 HEART (43278), email [email protected] or visit www.heartfoundation.co.za.

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Clicks Clinics can help you prevent or manage heart disease with their wide range of screening tests. These include:

  • Blood Pressure (BP) Test
  • Cholesterol Testing and Consultation
  • Lipogram Blood Test (to determine different types of cholesterol)
  • Clicks Full Basic Screening (BP, Body Mass Index or BMI, meal guide and exercise plan)
  • Clicks Screening Measurements only (BP and BMI)
  • Clicks Comprehensive Screening (BP, BMI, Glucose and Cholesterol screening, plus meal and exercise plan)

To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or visit Clicks Clinics online.

Read More: Heart Disease Super Section