Heart health tips for the family caregiver

Posted: 2/5/2013 3:37 PM by Interim HealthCare
It's no secret that caring for a loved one is a stressful endeavor. Shouldering any responsibility for another person can certainly cause anxiety, but it can also take its toll on a caregivers' health because they are often more concerned with their loved one's well-being than their own. It's important for caregivers to remember that their own health is just as important, and that is especially true when it comes to their heart, so it might behoove them to take a look at some of the best ways to improve their cardiovascular function in the coming weeks and months.

Commit to eating better
It can be easy for family caregivers to fall into a pattern of poor dietary choices. Between a full-time job and looking after their loved one, there might not be much time for a nutritious meal on a daily basis. While that's certainly understandable, it does not excuse regularly stopping at fast food joints. There is ample research that suggests there are easy ways for caregivers to add some heart healthy foods to their diets.

Strawberries, blueberries and other similar fruits are a much healthier snack than chips, and they offer the heart many benefits, according to study from the Harvard School of Public Health. After analyzing the diets of nearly 94,000 women over the course of 18 years, the research team found that the subjects who ate berries at least three times a week had a 32 percent lower risk of suffering a heart attack.

Keep stress levels low
Telling family caregivers to reduce stress should almost go without saying, but it is often easier said than done. Between doctors appointments, concerns about a loved one's health and balancing other aspects of their lives, caregiver burnout is a serious issue. Though it's a challenge, family caregivers should make a point to lower their stress whenever they can because it can have a serious impact on their heart health.

Caregivers need to find time each day to focus on themselves, however difficult that may be. The American Heart Association recommends they do at least one thing each day that appeals to them, whether that is reading a favorite book, starting a project or listening to music. That short burst of relaxation can help relieve stress and in turn improve their heart health.

Make exercise a priority
Physical activity is an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle, but for family caregivers it is even more critical. It can be a challenge to find time to exercise when caring for a loved one, but even a little amount each day can have a long lasting impact on cardiovascular health.
The good news is that the activity does not have to be anything too strenuous. Anything that raises one's heart rate, from swimming and jogging to walking and Pilates will offer considerable benefits. Additionally, even for caregivers who do not have a lot of time, short five or 10 minute bursts of exercises spread throughout the day can have an impact. Not only does exercise itself offer benefits when it comes to heart health, it also can help caregivers lower their levels of stress.

Maintaining a healthy heart is important for family caregivers because it ensures they can continue to look out for th​eir loved ones. When it comes to heart health for family caregivers, there is no one secret solution. As is the case with most health concerns, a well-rounded approach that includes eating right, keeping stress levels low and exercising is the best bet.