Friday, May 31, 2024

Most Seniors Have Heart Disease - How to Reduce the Risk to Your Life

Heart Attacks Can Happen without Warning! 

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, affecting millions of individuals each year.  In fact, if you are over the age of 60, there is greater than a 75% chance that you have some type of cardiovascular disease.  If you are over age 80, the risk is 90%.  Nearly 700,000 Americans died of cardiovascular disease in 2021 ... or about one out of five deaths.  Despite decades of research into heart disease, it still remains the leading cause of death in the U.S.

The good news is that many heart disease cases can be managed through lifestyle changes and proactive measures. By taking control of our health and adopting healthier habits, we can significantly reduce the risk of dying from heart disease and improve our overall well-being. Below is a list of proven ways to promote a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Adopt a Balanced Diet

A heart-healthy diet is the foundation of cardiovascular health. Incorporate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your meals while limiting saturated fats, trans fats, and processed foods. Consider the Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease due to its emphasis on olive oil, nuts, fish, and fresh produce.

If you are new to the Mediterranean diet, you might enjoy using this Amazon link to read about "The 5 Ingredients Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners." (Ad) Most of these simple recipes only require five delicious ingredients, and it's a great introduction to the Mediterranean Diet. 

Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining a healthy heart. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Activities like walking, cycling, swimming, and dancing can all contribute to a stronger cardiovascular system and improved overall health.

Manage Stress

Chronic stress can negatively impact heart health. Implement stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or spending time in nature. Prioritize self-care and take breaks when needed to maintain a healthy balance in your life.

One way to reduce your stress is by taking long walks in nature.  Another way is to learn to remind yourself to live "One Day at a Time."  

We often become stressed when we spend too much time focusing on past mistakes, or worrying about future potential problems.  By living one day at a time, we eliminate a common cause of stress.

Get Quality Sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in heart health. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Poor sleep patterns have been linked to an increased risk of hypertension and other heart-related issues. Establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine to improve sleep quality.  If you are not able to get enough sleep on your own, or you are tired again soon after you wake up in the morning, discuss these issues with your doctor.  They may be able to do a sleep study and help you find ways to improve the quality of your sleep. 

Quit Smoking

Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for heart disease. If you smoke, seek support and resources to quit. The benefits of quitting smoking are almost immediate, as your heart health will start to improve within days of giving up this harmful habit.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

While moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with certain health benefits, excessive drinking can lead to heart problems. If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.  

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. By adopting a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise, you can maintain a healthy weight or work towards achieving it. Even a modest weight loss can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and related conditions.

Regular Health Checkups

Regular checkups with your healthcare provider are essential for monitoring your heart health. They can identify potential risk factors and recommend appropriate actions to maintain a healthy heart. Blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar should be regularly monitored, especially if you have a family history of heart disease.

Once your primary care doctor or cardiologist is monitoring your heart, follow their advice.  They may want you to take blood pressure medication, a statin to lower your cholesterol, or put you on a special diet.  If you have AFib, they could also suggest a pacemaker or medications.  They may discover that you need to have a blockage cleared from an artery, and have a surgeon insert a stent to keep the artery open.  There could be other procedures which they feel you need.  Whatever they recommend, their suggestions are designed to help prolong your life and keep you as comfortable and active as possible.  

Stay Hydrated

Proper hydration is crucial for heart health. Drinking enough water helps maintain blood volume and prevents your heart from working harder than necessary. Aim to drink at least 8 cups of water daily, or more if you are physically active or live in a hot climate.

Engage in Social Activities

Social isolation and loneliness can have adverse effects on heart health. Stay connected with friends, family, and community to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Engaging in social activities and nurturing meaningful relationships can positively impact heart health.

Reducing the risk of heart disease requires a holistic approach that involves adopting healthier habits and making positive lifestyle changes. By following the strategies outlined in this blog post, you can take significant steps towards improving your heart health and overall quality of life.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Cohabitating with a Friend or Lover? How to Have a Better Roommate Experience!

There are a number of reasons why an adult may decide to have a roommate or romantic partner move in with them. They may be in love and want to share their life with someone.  They may be worried about how to pay their monthly bills, especially after the loss of a spouse due to divorce or death. They might not wish to live alone, or wonder if they will be able to afford their house payments, rent, homeowner's association dues, utilities and other expenses on a single income.  Financial reasons, such as the risk of losing alimony or Social Security payments, may prevent them from deciding to get married, but they would still like to have a companion and the financial security of having someone to carry part of the financial burden.

House sharing has become a popular option among Baby Boomers and older retirees, particularly women.  According to AARP, approximately four million women over the age of 50 live in a home with at least one other woman in the same age group.  In 2010, it was estimated that 2.75 million senior couples were cohabitating, or living together in a romantic relationship without being married.  Regardless of why you are living with another adult, there are many advantages to the arrangement, and certain pitfalls you will want to avoid. 

Before we get into specifics, you may want to consider purchasing the book "Roommate Agreement: Designed to Assist You with Roommate Agreements to Make Life more Manageable." (Amazon link)  They describe it this way: "A Roommate Agreement journal is a place to record and keep track of the terms and conditions agreed upon by all roommates, as well as any updates or changes to the agreement. By regularly reviewing and updating the journal, roommates can ensure that their living arrangement is harmonious and fair for everyone involved." 

Of course, simply having a form to follow is not enough.  You also need to think about the specific things you want to be sure to include in your agreement.  

Advantages of Senior Roommates

When people decide to enter a house sharing arrangement, they can both benefit in several ways. It's important to keep these advantages in mind as you put your agreement in writing.

*  Financially, people supporting themselves on fixed incomes can live more comfortably if they share the cost of housing, utilities and other expenses.

*  The added security of having another person in the home can be one more advantage of having a roommate.  I know of a fireman who is frequently away from his home for days at a time when he is on duty.  As a result, he invited a police officer who works a regular schedule to be his roommate.  It helped them both out financially, and provided extra security when the fireman was on duty.

*  Socialization is an additional reason for finding a roommate.  It is easy for people to become isolated, lonely and depressed as they age.  People who live with an amicable friend or romantic partner will always have someone to talk to, eat with, and do other things with each other ... such as attending movies or traveling.

Is Having a Roommate Right for You?

Not everyone actually wants to have a another person living with them all the time.  You need to know yourself, and evaluate the home you will be sharing.  Will you have enough personal, private space?  Are you flexible?  Do you have a lot of allergies, health problems or food preferences which could make it difficult for you to live with other people? Before you even consider inviting another person into your home, you need to see if you, and they, are suitable for sharing a home.

What Guidelines Need to be Put in Writing?

If you are planning to live with another person, it may go better if the two of you put your expectations in writing and discuss them first.  Below are some issues your agreement may need to cover:

*  Decide in advance specifically how the expenses will be shared.  Will one person be the landlord and the other the tenant, or will everything be split right down the middle?  If that is the case, make sure you list all the expenses involved in living in the home, including utilities, insurance, homeowner's dues, taxes, lawn mowing, a house cleaner, etc. 

*  If this is a landlord / tenant agreement, you should order  "Room Rental Lease Agreement Forms Book," (Amazon link) so you can put your lease in writing. Many people rent out a room in their home, and they need a formal agreement to make that a successful arrangement which spells out the expectations. 

*  If this is a roommate situation, decide who will perform which household tasks and how often ... cleaning, cooking, dishes, yard work, pet care, etc.  If you plan to hire someone to handle some of those chores, reach an agreement on how that cost will be shared. 

*  Decide if the two of you are going to cook and eat together or if you will each be responsible for your own meals, purchasing your own food, preparing it, and cleaning up afterwards.

*  Reach an agreement about pets ... if they are allowed, what kind, how large, where they will be kept, etc.

*  Discuss adult children and grandchildren with each other.  You need to agree in advance whether or not they will be allowed to spend the night, how often, where they will sleep, and any concerns which either of you have.  I have known of couples who grew irritated when the adult children seemed to be around too often, walked into the home without calling in advance, helped themselves to food in the refrigerator, etc.  These familiarities should be dealt with before someone moves into a friend's home.

*  Discuss the same issues which could arise with friends and occasional visitors. Will they will be allowed to spend the night? How often will friends be able to just "hang out."  How often can each of you plan to entertain your friends in a book club, bridge group, or other social circle? If you do not want to be friends will all of your roommate's friends, you need to discuss that in advance.

*  If you are two casual friends who are living together, and not a romantic couple, be sure to discuss dating and whether your dates will be allowed to come for dinner, hang out in the home, or spend the night.  This could become very awkward.

*  Your agreement should cover personal habits such as smoking, drinking, drug use or any other behaviors which someone else might consider offensive.  Even allergies, such as an allergy to candles, perfumes, or certain products, should be discussed in advance.

*  If either of you have strong religious or political opinions which could be the source of arguments, you should consider whether that could be a problem if you decide to live with this person.  Be sure that neither person believes that eventually "the other person can be persuaded to change their opinions." 

*  Discuss other expectations you both may have such as entertaining friends, relying on each other to do the shopping, what time the house should be quiet, using earphones to watch TV, when you could each practice playing your musical instruments, etc.  If one person likes quiet and the other wants to play loud music or have frequent parties, will this cause friction?  If one person likes an evening cocktail, and the other person doesn't, will that be a problem?

*  Discuss healthcare preferences with each other, in the event of a medical emergency. You should know the name of each other's primary care doctor, the type of health insurance they have, medical conditions, etc.  Also make sure you both have contact information for relatives, employers, lawyers or other people who would need to be contacted in the event of an accident, death or serious illness.

* Decisions need to be made in advance regarding what will happen if one of the housemates becomes too ill or weak to continue to participate in an independent living arrangement.  If you are co-owners or both on a lease and one of the parties must enter a nursing home, what will happen? What is everyone's "Plan B?"

* Both parties need to have a clear will and trust, especially if this is a romantic relationship.  Both people need to know if any provisions will be made for them if one of the parties dies.  If you are the owner of a property, and have a romantic partner living with you, do you want that person to be able to remain in the home if you die first?  Do you want to make any other financial provisions for them?  This should be worked out long before the need arises, and adult children should be informed about whatever you decide, so they are prepared to go along with that decision. 

As you can see, there are a large number of issues to consider before you decide if you and another person should live together.  Everything should be put in writing after you have talked about it.  This will reduce confusion about what you both agreed to.  This will also make it easier for your adult children to know your plans.

House Sharing Websites

If you are interested in senior shared housing, you will want to do additional research.  Here are a few websites which can help you locate roommates.  I have not used any of them myself in order to find a roommate, but these are the sites which were specifically mentioned by AARP in an article:

In addition, if you are considering a home sharing arrangement with strangers or casual acquaintances, I strongly suggest that you proceed extremely cautiously, ask for personal references and get a background check.  You want to have as much information as possible about the people with whom you will be sharing a home.

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