By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
Sit comfortably on a chair. Place your feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap. Close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Breathe slowly in and out.
Cathy Butts was giving those of us in attendance at Friday’s informational program on Heart Health an example of one way to deal with stress.
The program was held last week at the Heritage Woods of Gurnee affordable assisted living community that Gardant manages in Lake County, Illinois because February is designated as American Heart Month.
Cathy serves as the community’s Director of Nursing. She was one of the speakers who provided a wealth of healthy heart tips for older adults. Tips were also provided by Val Spreco, the community’s Dietary Manager, and Shalaka Gandbhir, who is a Clinical Specialist with Health Pro Rehabilitation, a company that is going to be providing on-site physical and occupational therapy services at Heritage Woods of Gurnee.
Cathy explained that there is a link between chronic stress and heart disease. Stress can cause your heart to speed up and cause you to eat, drink, sleep and smoke too much. High blood pressure can be another consequence.
The symptoms of stress can include headaches, high blood pressure and aches in your neck, jaw or stomach. You might feel a sense of helplessness, have difficulty sleeping, be inpatient or forgetful, or feel anxious, angry, tired or depressed.
Here are a few emergency stress stoppers suggested by Cathy:
– Count to 10 before you talk.
– Take several deep breaths.
– Go for a walk.
– Break down big problems into small parts.
– Meditate, pray.
To help relieve stress, Cathy also suggested trying to do at least one thing you enjoy every day, even if it is for only 15 minutes.
Remember, relaxation is more than sitting in your chair and watching television.
Other Heart Healthy Habits suggested by Cathy were as follows:
– Smile at your neighbor.
– Talk with family and friends.
– Engage in physical activity.
– Laugh, even when you are alone.
– Try to pace rather than race yourself.
– Approach big tasks one step at a time.
– Try not to worry; the world is not going to end because your kitchen is not clean.
– Engage in positive self-talk, especially when you have negative thoughts running through your mind.
Heritage Woods of Gurnee’s Dietary Manager Val Spreco focused on the need for older adults to eat right. Enjoy healthy foods, eat less salt and sugar, avoid sodas, and watch your carbs, she advised.
Your heart is a muscle, Shalaka noted. Muscles need movement. They need exercise.
You can exercise sitting down, she said. For instance, as you are sitting and watching TV, lift your legs in a marching motion.
Walking is another excellent form of exercise for older adults. The key is to walk at a fast enough pace to raise your heart rate to an appropriate level.
If you have a heart condition, be sure to check with your doctor before you start to exercise, she said.
Older adults can take advantage of the Step in Time exercise classes that are available at Heritage Woods of Gurnee. The exercises are designed especially for older adults and are offered at 10:15 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Residents of the community can also use the exercise room located on-site.
Shalaka also stressed the importance of drinking enough water. If you exercise and don’t drink enough water, you can get dehydrated, which makes your heart work faster.
Don’t use coffee or soda as water, she cautioned. They dehydrate you. For every cup of coffee you drink, you should drink one cup of water.
You can learn more about Heart Healthy Living by visiting the American Heart Association website.