The heart is the engine that keeps the human body moving. It pumps blood in and out of the lungs and supplies the entire body with oxygen. As we age, our hearts begin to slow down and our arteries stiffen. This change is natural, so being proactive over our heart’s health is essential. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for older adults.

Adults 65 and older have an increased risk of developing heart disease and are much more likely to suffer from a heart attack or heart failure. This change, in one of the most active muscles in the human body, is debilitating and dramatically reduces the quality of life of seniors. Luckily there are ways to prevent, delay, and reverse the risks of heart problems:

Have your blood pressure checked regularly

There are plenty of ways you can get your blood pressure checked that doesn’t mean waiting at the doctor’s office. Most pharmacies have a blood pressure reading machine that you can use while waiting to pick up your prescriptions. You can also purchase an at-home blood pressure monitor at a pharmacy if you prefer to take more regular readings.

Two and a half hours of cardio/week

A great way to look at this is to divide those 2.5 hours into the seven days of the week. That could mean going for a 15-20-minute walk every day or a 30-40-minute swim every other day. It is important to get cardio exercise at least a few times a week to get the heart pumping and blood moving throughout the body regularly.

Two days of strengthening exercises/week

While doing cardio is one of the most important forms of exercise to do every week, do not forget about strengthening. Using free weights or body weight exercises are important for keeping muscles healthy.

Monitor your drinking

While one glass of wine is not bad for you, more than that becomes an issue. Drinking in excess can cause high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems and much more.

Manage your stress

We were never told that stress has a negative effect on the body until very recently when studies revealed what the stress response does to us. It can lower the immune system, upset the digestive system, cause headaches and much more. To manage stress, it’s important to focus on deep breathing, exercising regularly, eating healthy food and taking a break from what it is that is causing stress.

Drink plenty of water

Simply put, drinking at least eight cups of water a day is a good rule of thumb. Our bodies are mostly made up of water and need to be replenished often. Living in the heat of Florida makes it more difficult as we sweat more and tend to be outside more often than our northern neighbors.

A diet low in sodium and sugar

Much of what we eat is already very high in sodium and sugar, especially if it comes prepackaged. Dairy, juices, sodas, bread and snack foods are very high in sodium and should be avoided as much as possible. It is best to swap out chips for roasted nuts, juices and sodas for water (or seltzer water if you like carbonation) and remove bread from meals if possible. Dessert should be eaten only on special occasions.

There are things we cannot control like family history or aging, but with a proper plan, we can support our heart with a healthy lifestyle. Commit to one or two of these tips and gain control of your heart health. Do not wait until you are ready; start now!