Most people greatly look forward to their retirement; retirement offers opportunities to pursue activities we never had time for in our working lives, to strike out in new directions and chase long-held dreams. However, inevitably, we’re older and probably less healthy during our retirement years than we were as younger adults, and more prone to disease. Heart disease affects millions of people of all ages, and can quickly destroy all our well-laid plans for an active and fulfilling retirement.
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease accounts for the largest number of cardiovascular deaths in seniors; half of these deaths are caused by heart attack. There are warning signs that a heart attack may be imminent, however, allowing you time to get to a hospital for a full examination. The most prominent signal is chest pain: a tightness or crushing feeling, a burning sensation, a feeling that one’s chest is full to bursting. This pain emanating from the center of one’s chest may spread, down one or both arms, up the neck to the jaw, or toward the shoulders and back. Other signs include excessive perspiration and weakness, shortness of breath, nausea and indigestion, and anxiety. Warnings signs are less prominent for women than for men; women may only feel modest indigestion-like discomfort such as heartburn, less severe chest pressure, nausea, and back pains. If you respond immediately to these warning signs by getting to a doctor, you stand a good chance of staving off a fatal heart attack.
Some Factors That Contribute to Heart Disease
Other, more longstanding conditions may give you clues as to whether you’re at risk of heart problems. High blood pressure, for instance, increases the amount of work your heart must do and thus puts you at greater risk. Fortunately, there are various medications that can control high blood pressure. The risk of heart disease also increases if your level of “bad cholesterol” (LDL) is high. A diet that’s low in fat and high in fiber can help lower your LDL level. There are dozens of reasons why smoking cigarettes is bad for you; for one thing, smokers double or triple their risk of heart attack. Continuous exposure to second-hand smoke can also be dangerous. And obesity — carrying body weight that’s more than 30 percent over one’s ideal body weight — also puts tremendous strain on the heart. Any of these factors in combination with others of course increases your risk even more.
Inherited Heart Disease
Finally, heart disease can be hereditary. There’s nothing you can do to control that, but if you know that family members and ancestors have had heart disease or died of heart attacks, you should take prevention that much more seriously. You are not doomed, but you may need to work a little harder to keep yourself healthy.
Ways To Prevent Heart Disease
Apart from seeing your doctor, getting medication to control blood pressure and cholesterol, losing weight, and quitting smoking, there are a number of preventive measures you can take. First of all, adopt a healthy diet plan. Eat foods that are high in fiber on a daily basis: fruits and vegetables, legumes, barley, brown rice, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Cut way back on salt; use herbs, spices, and other flavorings instead (basil, dill, curry, garlic, lemon juice, hot peppers, and the like). Cut back on fats and fatty meats; limit portions of meat to a piece the size of your fist. Always choose low-fat milk and other dairy products. Continue to enjoy your favorite desserts, but in small quantities only. If you’re already full, those last few bites of cake aren’t going to taste very good anyway!
Second, get exercise. Cardio workouts help strengthen your heart and circulation, plus give you increased lung power. Regular exercise not only reduces the risk of heart disease; it also helps control cholesterol and high blood pressure, and helps you shed pounds.
Finally, reduce stress in your life. If you’ve started a new business in your retirement and find yourself fretting over the company finances every night, then rethink how you want to spend your retirement. Stress can also lead to unhealthy behaviors such as overindulging in food and alcohol and losing sleep.
As prevalent as heart disease is around the world, it’s an affliction that we can control to some degree. Take steps to ensure that your retirement is active and rewarding.