The heart and the head work as partners to maintain overall wellness and require equal attention. Caring for your mental health reduces stress, which in turn lowers heart disease risk. Here are a few ways to take care of your head to protect your heart, helping you feel free to live the quality of life you deserve.
Reduce Stress, Reduce Risk
If 2020 could be described in one word, many people would say “stressful.” If this year has taught us anything it’s that through stressful times we can persevere, but we have to monitor our stress levels. It’s been studied that increased stress contributes to poor heart health. While we live in stressful times, Sharp Home Care caregivers can be there to help you maintain independence even through uncertain times.
It’s important to note that the link between stress and heart disease isn’t clear, but stress causes many negative side effects. First, high levels of stress cause high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Second, when you’re stressed you can turn to vices like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, inactivity, and overeating that harm your heart.
In addition, headaches, aches and pains and digestive problems can all stem from stress. When your body isn’t feeling right, it’s harder to maintain healthy habits.
Thankfully, there are some activities you can try, to reduce stress and reduce risk. For example, go for a walk or give biking a try. Walking and biking improve cardiovascular health by strengthening heart muscles, lowering resting pulse, and reducing blood fat levels.
A 2020 study found that spending time in nature—even just 10 minutes—can improve mood, focus, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Battle the Blues, Boost Heart Health
Older adults have a higher risk of getting misdiagnosed with depression or suffering with undiagnosed depression, as symptoms of depression and aging share commonalities. However, depression is not a normal sign of aging.
Knowing how you respond to various situations and how long your “blues” last will help you determine whether depression symptoms are situational or chronic.
- Situational: As you age, if you experience the death of a loved one or move from work into retirement you can feel sad or anxious. If you regain your emotional balance after a period of adjustment, then your depression is more likely to be situational.
- Chronic: If you experience the death of a loved one or trouble adjusting to retirement and your symptoms do not subside, then your depression is more likely to be chronic.
80% of older adults have a chronic condition, and 50% have more than one. Experiencing changes in health, mobility, environment, or socialization caused by such conditions may trigger depression. While symptoms of depression can coincide with other conditions, you should never overlook the following in combination or excess:
- Fatigue/decreased energy
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Insomnia, early morning waking or over-sleeping
- Unexplained physical symptoms including but not limited to aches and pains, headaches or digestive problems that don’t respond to treatment
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness, pessimism, and thoughts of suicide and more.
Aging is not easy. It can leave older adults feeling lonely and out of control, but remember: you are not alone. Support groups exist to help you meet and talk to others going through similar loss or life changes. Your family and friends are there to help. Pets and social activities are also there to keep you energized. For more tips, read Medical Guardian’s blog about How Loneliness Affects the Elderly. Sharp Home Care caregivers can also help ease the loneliness.
Keep Calm, Curb Anxiety
One in four older adults experience anxiety amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. Undiagnosed or untreated anxiety can lead to worsening symptoms that mimic those of severe heart problems. Fortunately, there are daily, low-maintenance activities you can do to alleviate the symptoms.
One low maintenance activity to try is concentrated breath work. Studies show breath work—especially resonant and yogic breathing—calms anxiety by focusing your energy on just your breath. Since anxiety can cause a rapid heartbeat, taking deep breaths can help slow down your rapid heart beat and calm you down. Experiment with mindfulness practice through journaling, goal setting, and light meditation. Now that we live in a digital age, there are smartphone apps with reminders and prompts that can help curb anxiety. Reflectly, Headspace, and Calm are great apps that are free or require a small subscription fee if you need more guidance.
Do not underestimate the importance of moving your body. More than 1 in 4 US adults over 50 do not engage in regular physical activity. Start with just spending time outside, at least 10 minutes in nature a day, to curb anxiety. Try an at home yoga routine or go for a walk around the neighborhood (if and when safe).
Know Behavioral Norms, Know Your Health Risks
Behavioral health is just as important as mental health because both an undiagnosed mental or physical ailment can increase the risk of heart disease.
Symptoms of aging, dementia, and ADHD can easily overlap, but understanding the difference is crucial. For example, ADHD has a tendency to flare with age, and what you might consider normal signs of aging (i.e., forgetfulness and difficulty learning) might be a deeper issue in need of a diagnosis. If diagnosed, keep in mind: improper ADHD drug prescription management poses an increased risk of cardiovascular illness.
Aside from ADHD specifically, a proper diagnosis of a mental or behavioral ailment is crucial to your health, as frustration surrounding these issues can feed into substance abuse or mismanagement.
Mental health can be tricky because the symptoms are not always physical. Preventative care—like staying active, eating a healthy diet, talking to loved ones, and reducing known stressors—is crucial to heart health.
Getting older comes with challenges to both your head and your heart. As discussed, there are everyday measures you can take to stay well. Sharp Home Care caregivers can be the extra layer of protection that you need so that you can live a better life at home.
Call Sharp Home Care Today! 📞 (770) 874-2744.