When you’re a family caregiver for an aging-in-place loved one it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment that you begin to lose control and start to neglect your own heart health. Caregiving can be a physically and mentally demanding job that also places a lot of stress on your heart.
As the caregiving responsibilities pile up finding ways to take control of your heart health should be a priority. After all, if you aren’t around who’s going to care for your loved one? Thankfully, leading a more heart-healthy lifestyle as a caregiver is possible by following these self-care tips.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
The first step in the heart health process is understanding your risk of heart disease. If you are a female aged 55-and-over, that’s strike one. For males, attaining age 45 increases your risk for developing heart disease. If you smoke cigarettes or abuse alcohol to “relieve stress”, you also have a greater likelihood to develop heart disease.
In addition to those concerns, here are some other risk factors for heart disease:
- Being overweight or obese
- High blood pressure
- Poorly managed Type 2 diabetes
- Elevated blood cholesterol
- A family history of early heart disease
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Not getting enough exercise
Since caregiving can be hectic on most days, adding stress to one or more of these risk factors creates a “ticking time bomb” for a heart attack or stroke.
Self-Care Tips for Informal Caregivers
Fortunately, it’s easier than you might think to take back control over your heart health when following these self-care steps:
Eat a balanced diet
As a caregiver, it’s tempting on most day to just grab some fast food and a soda on the way home. But highly processed, sugary foods and beverages aren’t helping when your heart’s health weighs in the balance. If time is something you don’t have a lot of, prepare healthy dishes in advance and freeze portions until you’re ready to eat them.
Limit your intake of foods high in processed sugar, tans fats and salt- like chips, donuts and pastries. Replace those with heart-healthy selections like fresh fruits and veggies, fish, lean meats, low-fat dairy products and whole grains.
A sedentary lifestyle is another major risk factor for heart disease. An easy way to lower your risk is by exercising for at least 20 minutes 3 to 5X a week. In addition to improving your cardiovascular endurance, refreshing workouts like Yoga, walking, swimming or cycling also relieve stress, promote a better night’s sleep, help normalize blood sugar levels and allow you to shed excess pounds- a winning combination when it comes to heart health!
Avoid unhealthy habits
Contrary to what you might think, drinking too much alcohol, smoking cigarettes and downing copious amounts of Starbucks coffee won’t relieve pent-up stress. Kick those unhealthy habits to the curb and replace them with heart-healthy ones.
Get an annual physical
You probably insist that mom or dad get annual checkups by their doctor, so take your own advice and schedule a complete physical at least once a year. That way if any heart-related issues are present you can immediately take corrective steps to manage them.
Take a break
You’re only human after all, so don’t let the rigors of caregiving wear you down to the point that you experience caregiver fatigue or feelings of resentment. Instead, take care of yourself by finding someone reliable to fill-in, like a close friend, relative or trusted neighbor. If none are available another option is hiring a professional respite caregiver from a licensed home care provider.
Personalized In-Home Respite Care for Seniors in South Florida
Although caring for an aging-in-place elderly loved one is highly rewarding, it can also be stressful and exhausting. When you need to take a well-deserved break contact the respite caregivers from Dependable Senior Care. As a fully licensed and insured agency, our experienced caregivers are well-trained and carefully selected. We provide personalized services that are available 7 days a week, ranging from a few hours per day to 24-hour and live-in care.
DSC is locally owned and operated by healthcare professionals with 80+ years of combined experience. Our goal is providing in-home daily living assistance services that support seniors and their families in South Florida. Those services include personal care, respite care, companionship care, nursing assistance, and Alzheimer’s and dementia care. To contact a Dependable Senior Care office in Palm Beach, Miami Dade or Broward County today, or schedule a consultation for a senior now, please visit www.dependableseniorcare.com!