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May 19, 2019

By Alyssa H. Tran, DO

As an older adult, you might think you’re too old to improve your heart health. I have an 88-year-old patient who would prove you wrong.

She has Type 2 diabetes and a history of heart disease, but that hasn’t stopped her from making changes that have helped her reach her goal of cutting back on the amount of medication she needs to stay healthy.

When it comes to changes in diet or activity, I usually try to give my patients choices instead of just telling them what to do. In this case, my patient has a sweet tooth. Instead of forbidding her to eat sweets altogether, I suggested she eat half the usual amount. I also urged her to be more active.

Today, she goes to the senior center and does aerobic exercises by line dancing and other activities. She is still overweight, but she has achieved her goal of whittling her medications down to just one prescription to manage her diabetes. And her blood sugar numbers are always in goal now.

Most of my patients are older than 60, and many already have at least one heart condition. Many have had heart attacks, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still take care of their hearts.

There are several steps you can take to start on the path to better heart health.

  • • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting.• If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, work with your doctor or other health care provider to get and keep those numbers in the healthy range.• Increase your level of physical activity, even if it’s just a little, and build on that over time.• Eat healthier foods. Avoid processed foods, eat more fruits and vegetables and limit how much red meat and sugar you eat.

Quitting smoking and getting your high blood pressure and cholesterol numbers under control are especially important to reduce your chance of having another heart attack or stroke, so it’s important that you talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes or medications that can help you address these factors.

It is possible to live a healthy life after developing heart disease. Developing a close, working relationship with your primary care physician is a good first step.

Alyssa H. Tran, DO, is a family medicine physician at WellMed at Alamo Heights in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Tran earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Tran received her medical degree from the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens, Ohio. She completed her residency in Family Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

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