A Change of Heart: Promoting Heart Health in Senior Living Communities Part 2

Part 2: Celebrating Every Beat

As noted in our previous blog, February is American Heart Health Month, a 28-day celebration of heart health. To help seniors understand and avoid the risk factors for cardiac disease, Lifetime Wellness is supporting its partner communities in conducting a February wellness campaign focused around heart health in seniors. The theme is “Celebrate Every Beat…Live a Heart-Healthy Life.”

“Our goal is to help our partners deliver an effective educational program,” says Susan McKinney, vice president of operations at Lifetime Wellness. “Our program extends in-house resources and creates an engaging, person-centered experience for residents and staff alike.”

Learn more about our heart-healthy programs.

Lifetime Wellness provides campaign promotional support, from educational materials on health and wellness to resident activities that can be customized for each facility. The heart-healthy program includes a different theme for each week in February.

Beginning With the Basics: Heart Health

Week 1 activities focus on basic heart facts, including common heart attack warning signs, ways to lower the risk of a second heart attack, and what caregivers need to know about strokes. Education is accompanied by BodyWorks activities. Residents are invited to participate in group exercises, such as “cardio drumming” in a drum circle. “That’s a mixture of high and low-intensity exercises that tone muscles and burn calories,” McKinney says. “Participants beat an exercise ball with drumsticks – all to the rhythm of music.”

Activities also include an ArtWorks project to create “true and false” paddles. Facilitators offer facts about heart health in seniors, while participants hold up their paddles to indicate if the statement is true or false. For example:

  • Women tend to experience symptoms of a heart attack differently than men (True)
  • You get high cholesterol just because of what you eat (False)
  • Low-dose aspirin can help you avoid another heart attack (True)

“It’s a great way to engage seniors and help them remember the facts about heart health,” McKinney says.

 Battling Inactivity: Exercise

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seniors need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, such as brisk walking, and at least two days per week of strength training that works all the muscle groups. Week 2 activities focus on the heart benefits of exercise, as well as simple activities like walking or dancing that can increase blood circulation, reduce stress, and improve heart function.

“Programs may also include playing ‘Name That Tune,’ listening for songs that include ‘heart’ or ‘beat,’” McKinney says.

Balancing the Eating Equation: Diabetes and Nutrition

 About one in four people over 60 in the US has diabetes, a condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. If diabetes is not adequately managed, it can lead to serious health problems, including stroke and heart disease. Week 3 of the Lifetime Wellness campaign focuses on nutritional choices to help manage diabetes and improve heart health.

“Key to diabetes management is an eating plan that helps control blood sugar – one naturally rich in nutrients, low in fat and calories, and abundant with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains,” McKinney says. “Activities include nutrition education along with a ‘Chef’s Corner.’ We engage residents in the process of making simple, heart-healthy meals or snacks, from tomato and ricotta toast to yogurt banana split parfaits.”

Beating the Odds: A Healthy Lifestyle

 Week 4 brings it all together by engaging residents in meaningful and fun activities, from practicing yoga and meditation to creating thank-you cards for 21 days of gratitude.

“The focus on gratitude is a campaign from the American Heart Association devoted to jumpstarting healthy habits,” McKinney explains. “Activities focus on all dimensions of wellness, beginning with a grateful heart – and including being active, eating right, practicing mindfulness, managing stress, and connecting socially.”

Building Awareness: Health Campaigns Throughout the Year

The Heart-healthy Wellness Campaign is one of six Lifetime Wellness campaigns conducted throughout the year. April highlights nonpharmacological approaches to care; May is National Senior Health and Fitness Month; July explores wellness around the world; September addresses fall prevention, and November focuses on diabetes awareness.

“Our campaigns create memorable experiences for residents, families, and staff,” McKinney says. “They provide opportunities not only to educate, but to motivate and build community.”