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Creating Heart-Healthy Diets for Seniors

Heart health is important, no matter your age, but creating a heart-healthy diet can be challenging for seniors. Learn how to fuel your body and your heart with these top tips.

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Heart-Healthy Diet for Seniors: What To Eat & What Not To Eat 

Has your doctor recommended a heart-healthy diet, and you have no idea where to begin? 

Does the term “heart-healthy” confuse you? It’s understandable — when hearing the words “heart-healthy diet,” many people become concerned and are unsure where to begin. 

Whether you have …

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol; or

  • Want to prevent these problems

… following a heart-healthy diet can reduce the risk of heart attacks and help you manage your health.

In this article, you will learn: 

  • The importance of a heart-healthy diet for seniors

  • Foods to include in a heart-healthy diet

  • Foods to avoid in a heart-healthy diet

  • And much more

The Importance of a Heart-Healthy Diet for Seniors

The number one risk factor for heart disease is aging — the aging process can cause thickened or weakened heart muscles, increasing the risk of heart disease. 

The American Heart Association estimates that approximately 75% of seniors between the ages of 60 and 79 have cardiovascular disease and that 66% of heart disease-related deaths occur in seniors over 75.

For seniors with heart disease, consider making some dietary changes to improve heart health. According to the American Heart Association, eating a heart-healthy diet is one of the eight factors to improving your heart health.

In conjunction with other healthy habits, a heart-healthy diet for seniors can: 

  • Lower cholesterol

  • Control blood pressure; and

  • Control blood sugar levels

Understanding the Basic Principles of a Heart-Healthy Diet

An overall goal of a heart-healthy diet for seniors is to reduce sodium and fat intake. 

A high sodium intake can increase your blood pressure, resulting in hypertension. Hypertension increases the risk of heart attacks and other heart problems. 

Additionally, heart disease can be caused by plaque buildup on your arterial walls caused by fat. When this occurs, it’s difficult for blood to flow to your heart. 

There is a close link between nutrition and heart disease — some foods can cause heart disease, but others can promote heart health.

Senior Services of America communities promote health on all levels for all residents. Providing them with nutritious and low sodium meals every day is our pleasure.

If you or your loved one are looking for an assisted living community, check out Senior Services of America’s communities. Our state-of-the-art amenities and programs are designed to help our residents grow old with grace and dignity.

Foods To Include in a Diet That Promotes Heart Health for Seniors

Seniors who want good heart health should eat the right foods to ensure their bodies are functioning at their best.

Let’s take a closer look at foods to include in a heart-healthy diet for seniors.

#1: Fruits and Vegetables

Along with lowering blood pressure, diets rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Each fruit and vegetable family contains hundreds of beneficial plant compounds. So your body gets the right mix of nutrients, you need to eat various fruits and vegetables. This ensures a greater variety of healthy plant chemicals and creates visually appealing meals.

These simple ideas can be used to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption:

  • Include vegetables in every meal

  • Use fruit and vegetables as a snack

  • Always plan to enjoy in-season fruits and vegetables; and

  • Be sure to “eat the rainbow” daily

You should aim for four to five servings daily of fruits and vegetables. 

A few examples of servings include: 

  • One cup of raw, leafy green vegetables

  • ½ cup cooked vegetables

  • One medium fruit; and

  • ½ cup fruit juice

#2: Whole Grains

In addition to lowering heart disease, whole grains also reduce the risk of diabetes.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a diet high in whole grains.  Foods that contain whole grains are either single foods, such as brown rice and popcorn, or ingredients in products, such as whole-wheat flour in bread or buckwheat in pancakes.

Ensure that half of the grains in your diet are whole grains. 

Most grocery stores sell whole grain versions of: 

  • Rice

  • Bread

  • Cereal

  • Flour; and

  • Pasta 

Additional examples of whole grains include:

  • Barley

  • Oatmeal

  • Popcorn

  • Millet

  • Buckwheat

  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)

Eating six to eight servings of whole grains a day is essential. 

Examples of whole grain servings include: 

  • One ounce of dry cereal

  • One slice of bread; and

  • ½ cup cooked whole grain pasta or rice    

#3: Low-Fat Dairy

To maintain a healthy diet, choosing the right type of dairy is crucial.

Since whole milk dairy products contain higher levels of saturated fats, which can raise cholesterol and increase cardiovascular disease risk, fat-free or low-fat dairy is ideal. 

Some fat-free or low-fat dairy options include

  • Fat-free or low-fat milk

  • Fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese; and

  • Soy milk with added vitamins

You should aim for two to three servings of fat-free or low-fat products daily. For example, a serving of dairy is one cup of milk or yogurt.

#4: Lean Meats

Some types and cuts of meat have less fat, such as lean meat and poultry. Compared to other meats, lean meat has more protein and less fat.

Experts recommend limiting saturated fat intake by choosing lean meat.

Some examples of lean meats include: 

  • Lamb

  • Veal

  • Pork

  • Turkey

  • Duck; and 

  • Chicken

Lean meat should be consumed in six, one-ounce servings or fewer daily — a serving is considered one ounce of meat, poultry, or fish.

4 Foods To Avoid for Senior Heart Health

It’s never fun to completely cut out favorite foods from your diet. Instead of restricting certain foods, focus on eating fewer unhealthy foods. 

You should eat less of the following foods when changing your diet to one that is heart-healthy.

#1: Foods High in Trans Fats or Saturated Fats

Fats containing trans fats are the worst type to consume. In contrast to other dietary fats, trans fats raise “bad” cholesterol while lowering “good” cholesterol.

Trans fats increase the risk of heart disease; therefore, those who consume more trans fats are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

A few foods containing trans fats include: 

  • Commercial baked goods (i.e., cakes, cookies, etc.)

  • Microwave popcorn

  • Frozen pizza

  • Fried foods; and

  • Non-dairy coffee cream

#2: Processed Meats

Processed meats include those that have been: 

  • Salted

  • Cured

  • Smoked; or

  • Preserved with chemicals

This process often leaves processed meat laden with salt and saturated fat. 

As salt is added, the risk of …

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure; and 

  • Excess weight

… increases. 

Research shows that eating five ounces or more of processed meat per week increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 46% and death by 50%.

To give you an idea, five ounces of processed meat is approximately equal to:

  • Five slices of bacon

  • Two hot dogs; and

  • Five slices of deli meat

#3: Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates can also be called simple carbohydrates or processed carbohydrates.

There are two main types:

  1. Sugars — Processed and refined sugars, such as sucrose (table sugar), high fructose corn syrup, and agave syrup

  2. Refined grains — Grains that have been stripped of fibrous and nutritional parts

There is a drastic increase in the risk of …

  • Obesity

  • Heart disease; and

  • Type 2 diabetes 

… associated with eating refined carbs.

#4: Foods High in Salt Content

Too much salt can increase blood pressure, raise blood pressure, and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Blood pressure can be reduced if you lower your intake little by little each day. Everyone, even those with normal blood pressure, can benefit from reducing salt intake because our diets are generally so high in salt.

Most of the salt we consume comes from processed foods, including:

  • Fast food

  • Prepared meals

  • Canned soups

  • Bottled salad dressings; and

  • Packaged sauces

Two, easy to implement steps to reduce your salt intake include: 

  1. Prepare meals at home. (This makes it easy to control how much salt is added.) 

  2. Choose products with a lower sodium percentage daily value.

Additional Tips for Maintaining Heart-Healthy Diets for Seniors

As you age, healthy eating takes on a different meaning. 

The main reason is that the metabolism slows down, so fewer calories are required. Additionally, your body needs certain nutrients. Choosing nutritionally balanced foods is more important than ever before.

Listed below are tips on how to maintain heart-healthy diets for seniors.

Control Portion Sizes

You might remember the food pyramid. The USDA recently unveiled a simplified way to show people what they should eat daily — the program is called MyPlate.  

MyPlate is a simple graphic that shows how your plate should be arranged according to the five food groups. A healthy diet is built on these building blocks.

Meal Plan

Having a plan can make cooking easier than going out for a quick meal full of preservatives. 

When creating a meal plan, be sure to include …

  • Vegetables

  • Fruits; and 

  • Whole grains

… and be sure to limit high-sodium foods.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

One of the best things you can do for your heart is to maintain a healthy weight. 

There is a link between weight gain and higher: 

  • Cholesterol

  • Blood pressure; and

  • Diabetes risk

Short-term diets and short-term programs are not the best way to achieve a healthy weight. Focus instead on permanent, positive changes that promote lifelong health. 

Tips for doing this include: 

  • Eating a healthy diet

  • Be active and exercise; and

  • Meal plan

Allow Yourself to Enjoy Treats

When it comes to eating healthfully, many people wonder where sweets belong, especially if they are overweight or dieting. 

When slashing calories …

  • Desserts

  • Chips

  • Junk food; and 

  • Sweets

… are usually the first to go.

Experts say not so fast — as long as you choose healthier treats and pay attention to portion sizes, treats can be part of a balanced diet.

You can satisfy your sweet tooth or salty craving daily if you control the quantity.

Senior Services of America: Helping Seniors Live Their Healthiest Lives 

In Senior Services of America communities, independence and activity are encouraged. 

We offer health and wellness programs to encourage seniors to stay active and healthy at our facilities, as well as a first-rate dining program that can accommodate special diets. 

We are here to help you or your loved one find heart-healthy activities and foods to make health-conscious choices that improve physical and mental well-being. 

Find your nearest community today to learn more.