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What Foods are Best for My Heart as a Senior?

If you want to have good heart health as a senior, you should focus on eating the right foods to keep your body functioning at its peak.  You can rejoice because the list of heart-healthy foods for seniors is long.  Different options can vary from food, but, ultimately, they all agree on the following as being heart-healthy foods for seniors.

  • Oats – Oatmeal is loaded with protein and fiber.  Try oat bread, too!
  • Almond Milk – This milk is high in Vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium content and it is more easily digested than whole milk.  It can also help lower cholesterol.
  • Salmon – Fish is good to eat, particularly salmon as it has the Omega-3 nutrient that helps lower triglycerides and slow the process of hardening of the arteries.  Also try other types of fish, such as lake trout, sardines, herring, tuna, and mackerel.
  • Berries – Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are loaded with antioxidants and fiber to keep a healthy system.
  • Brussel Sprouts – They often get a bad wrap, but they can be served in delicious ways.  Just one cup of these yummy veggies contains four grams of heart-smart soluble fiber.
  • Beans and Legumes – These are known to help decrease LDL, or bad, cholesterol.
  • Walnuts – This type of nut contains Omega-3 nutrients, offering protein while lowering cholesterol.  Try other kinds of roasted nuts.
  • Spinach – Spinach contains many healthful properties that provide benefits to your eyes and your heart health.
  • Avocado – This “fruit” helps reduce cholesterol.
  • Green Tea – Green tea is rich in antioxidants to help your arteries remain flexible longer and helps keep plaque from building up in your arteries.

The DASH Diet and Mediterranean Diet

Two diets that have been clinically proven to be good for the heart are the DASH diet and the Mediterranean Diet. Both these diets incorporate all the essential foods that are good for the heart and the body.

What is the DASH Diet?

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a plan to help alleviate common heart problems. The DASH diet was developed many years ago and has withstood the test of time. The diet was primarily developed to help people prevent or treat high blood pressure. 

In brief, the DASH diet is rich in foods that contain calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are essential ingredients in the control of high blood pressure. In addition, the diet places a limit on foods that are high in sodium, sugars, and saturated fats.

Many studies have shown that when the DASH diet is adopted, it can decrease blood pressure within 7-14 days. The diet is also known to decrease the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in the blood. Both high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol are two very common heart problems; they are two key risk factors for stroke and premature heart disease.

The DASH Diet and Sodium Content

One of the key features of the DASH diet is the control of blood pressure.  It contains much lower levels of sodium than a typical American diet. In the DASH diet, the amount of sodium is limited to 2,300 mg/day but the typical American diet contains 3,400 mg of sodium/day. 

The DASH diet meets the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in keeping sodium levels low, which is about 1 teaspoon of salt per day. Some people with chronic hypertension can even consume the modified DASH diet, which limits sodium to 1,500 mg/day. 

The best way to know which DASH diet is good for you is to speak to your healthcare provider and learn more about common heart problems.

What Can You Eat with the DASH Diet?

One of the benefits of the DASH diet is that it is flexible but also balanced; this ensures that you will not get bored with the foods. The foods in the DASH diet are easily available in all grocery stores 365 days a year. 

The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also recommends fish, low-fat dairy products, nuts, eggs, and fiber-containing foods, like beans. The diet, however, does limit foods that are higher in sugar, saturated fats, and full-fat dairy products. Instead of meat, fish is recommended.

Read the Labels

When you follow the DASH diet, reading labels is important. You need to select the following foods:

  • Low in salt (sodium)
  • Low in saturated fats
  • Rich in calcium, magnesium potassium, protein, and fiber

Recommended Servings for the DASH Diet

The number of servings depends on your daily calorie needs. In general, for a male adult, one should aim for 2,000 calories and 1,800 calories for a female. A typical menu for a day should include the following: 

  • Grains may include cereal, a slice of bread, pasta, rice, or ½ cup of cereal
  • Vegetables may include raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice
  • Fruits can include any type of fresh or canned fruit or fruit juice
  • Low-fat dairy products can include yogurt, cheese, or milk
  • Protein may include poultry, lean meat, or fish
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes can be combined with the above meals or as snacks
  • Use unsaturated fats for cooking and limit the amount of mayonnaise and oils in salads
  • Sweets may include jelly, jam, ice cream, or sorbet. These sweets should be limited to once per week.

Maintain Low Sodium

The key to lowering blood pressure is to limit the intake of sodium. Additional things you can do to limit the intake of sodium include:

  • Avoid adding salt to the rice, cereal, or pasta
  • Use sodium-free flavoring and spices
  • When picking canned foods, avoid ones that contain salt
  • Eat fish, lean cuts of meat, and skinless poultry
  • Read food labels 

The Downside

The one downside of the DASH diet is that when you cut down on the salt, the food may not be quite as tasty as with the salt, and it will take some time for your palate to adjust to a more bland diet. On the other hand, you will reduce your blood pressure and lower your risk of stroke and premature heart disease.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean Diet evolved after it was observed that people who lived near the Mediterranean Sea had a much lower incidence of heart disease compared to Americans. Over the past few decades, many studies have shown that if the Mediterranean Diet is adopted, it can have heart and health benefits. Today, the Mediterranean Diet is widely recommended by health professionals to prevent heart disease and stroke.

Key Facts About the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is more of a plant-based diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, and olive oil. Red meat is consumed rarely; there is more emphasis placed on eating seafood, low-fat dairy products, and poultry. Sweets are only consumed on rare occasions.

Oil Matters

Besides being plant-based, the Mediterranean Diet recommends the use of olive oil, which is unsaturated fat. In moderation, olive oil has been shown to lower total cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. 

In addition, seeds, nuts, and a wide range of fish (sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna, salmon) also contain Omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent atherosclerosis. Other benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids include the ability to lower blood pressure and reduce triglycerides. All these factors decrease the risk of premature heart disease and stroke – two very common heart problems.

Wine is Allowed

One other feature of the Mediterranean Diet is that wine is allowed in moderation. There is ample evidence that small amounts of wine can lower the risk of heart disease.

The Mediterranean Diet

To get started on the Mediterranean Diet, here are some tips:

  • The diet is built around a wide variety of vegetables, whole grains, and legumes
  • Try to eat fish at least twice a week
  • Use olive oil instead of butter during cooking
  • Instead of sweets and desserts, consume fresh fruit and nuts

Healthy Lifestyle

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter which veggies or fruits you eat. They all have similar benefits. But it is important to understand that to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, you also need to do the following:

  • Do not smoke
  • Become physically active
  • Limit the intake of alcohol
  • Take your medications regularly and according to directions
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Follow-up with a healthcare provider

Conclusion

Whether you adopt the DASH Diet or the Mediterranean Diet, the benefits are the same. Both these diets can be started at any point in life, but if you want to lower your blood pressure quickly, go with the DASH Diet. Remember the DASH diet can be bland but if you want something more palatable, go with the Mediterranean Diet. 

To keep the menu exciting, use different veggies and fruits every day. Once in a while, you can take a break from these diets and enjoy your favorite ice cream.  The key to life is moderation.  To learn more about heart-healthy foods for seniors and how to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle, call Cano Health today at 1.855.447.6059. Caring for seniors is our passion.

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