Keeping your heart in good shape may be simpler than you realize. That’s good news, since a healthy heart can be the root of a healthier you.
Dr. Sid Sharma, a physician with North Fulton Primary Care, says that one of the most important things people can do to keep their hearts healthy, especially if they are over the age of 65, is to have regular check-ups with their physician.
“Your primary care physician knows your medical history, can assess your health risks, and will keep you up to date on preventive care, such as cholesterol screenings,” he says. “And if you already have a heart condition, see your cardiologist on a regular basis.”
Diet and exercise also play important roles in heart health. A healthy diet isn’t age specific, says Dr. Sharma.
Residents of continuum of care retirement communities like St. George Village can take advantage of the healthy meals and food choices offered there. “But if you eat out, try to avoid fast foods and fried foods,” Dr. Sharma cautions. “The one thing I really harp on is salt intake— try not to have a salt shaker nearby. Watch out for processed foods. My rule of thumb is, if a product has a long shelf life, it probably contains a lot of salt. High salt intake can worsen heart conditions.”
You can make other healthy food choices such as using extra virgin olive oil and garlic in cooking and eating nuts. Red wine can also be heart healthy, but in moderation — about a half glass per day.
Regular exercise — even as little as 30 minutes a day — can go a long way toward promoting heart health.
If exercise hasn’t been a part of your routine, Dr. Sharma advises starting out slowly and building up your endurance. “If you’ve been inactive for a while, start exercising for 30 minutes a couple of days a week. Walk or go to a fitness center. Swimming is a great form of exercise, too, because it’s easier on the knees and hips,” he states.
It’s also important to know your own body and pay attention to changes. If you notice symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, body aches or weakness, talk to your physician as soon as possible.
“Symptoms like these could indicate coronary problems, or they could be side effects from medications you are currently taking,” explains Dr. Sharma. “So it’s important to have a discussion with your doctor to determine what’s going on. Just don’t ignore the symptoms!”