Ask the Expert
And the Beat Goes On
The key to a fulfilled life? It’s in the heart.
By Nora L. Howley
For generations, the term “retired” has conjured up an opportunity to take it easy after a lifetime of work. Today, that notion is being turned on its head by baby boomers who are busy redefining the words “retirement,” and “aging.”
“They are creating their own unique meaning of what it means to thrive,” says Jerry Newberry, executive director of the NEA Health Information Network.
Historian Steven Gillion, author of the book Boomer Nation, would probably agree. He writes: “Many boomers have a desire to stay involved and connected; they’re not going to give in to the dictates of age and accept the older model. They’re going to find ways to stay socially, intellectually, and physically active.”
That kind of spirit illustrates the very best reason to take care of your heart and live well. Here are some things you can do.
Now is a good time to do a personal check-in to see how well you are taking care of yourself and whether there is a need for improvement. Check out the Centers for Disease Control website at cdc.gov for things you can do to maintain a healthy heart.
Heart disease affects an estimated 27 million adults and remains the leading cause of death among adults. And heart disease claims the lives of more women than breast cancer and lung cancer, combined. To learn how to prevent and control risk factors for heart disease, visit the U.S. Health and Human Services department’s initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over five years.
The American Heart Association offers Life Check, an interactive tool designed to help you formulate an action plan to maintain a healthy heart. Based on a concept the Heart Association calls Life’s Simple 7—blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar, smoking status, healthy weight, physical activity, and healthy diet—the tool provides an assessment of the user’s current state of heart health, and helps them develop a plan for improving overall health and quality of life.
We Really Are What We Eat
While mastering heart healthy facts and methods is an intellec-tual challenge for lots of people, eating is just plain fun. “It’s impor-tant to take sound nutrition into consideration so you can make sure that what you eat will help you maintain a strong beat,” says Newberry.
Fish, especially salmon, is loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids—“good” fats that have also been credited with guarding against brain deterioration—protein, vitamin D, and selenium, a mineral that Harvard School of Public Health researchers say may lower the risk for type 2 diabetes by up to 24 percent.
To boost your knowledge about healthful eating, cooking, and snacking, and to download recipes, visit The American Heart Association’s website at heart.org, click on “Getting Healthy,” and then click on “Nutrition Center.”
Need a “cheat sheet” to remind you of the foods that are healthy? www.choosemyplate.gov offers a downloadable brochure with tips for healthy grocery shopping, sample menus, recipes, daily food plans, and more.
Recent federal guidance recommends a daily four-cup serving of fruits and vegetables. Sound like a lot? Try this: Keep track of the amount of fruits and vegetables you already eat. You’ll probably learn that four cups every day is really an achievable amount.
Think Outside the Heart
When most people think of a symbol for love and emotion, they think of the heart. As you’re assessing the health of your heart, remember to take stock of how you’re faring emotionally. Overall state of mind, stress, and your ability to connect with friends and family are all things to consider.
And if you think you’re coming up short when it comes to interacting with others, consider volunteering. Whether it’s through your union, church group, or a local social service organization, giving to others can boost your sense of well-being and strengthen ties to a caring community.
Next time you make that “to-do” list, schedule time to check in with your heart. Doing that will help you stay on beat in every other area of your life.