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Heart-Healthy Diet Tips for Seniors
Heart health is important during every stage of life. But after retirement, it’s vital. The risk of cardiovascular diseases increases as you age. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, over 70% of men and women aged 60-79 have cardiovascular disease. After 80 years old, that number jumps to 83% of men and 87% of women. While these numbers are concerning, you can reduce your risk of heart disease with healthy lifestyle choices, exercise, and a few simple diet changes.
Control Your Portions
Pay attention to not only what you’re eating but how much. Having a small dessert or a snack like potato chips is okay in moderation, but don’t overdo it. Being mindful of portion size helps you maintain a healthy weight, reducing your risk for heart disease. Note: prepackaged foods often contain more than one portion serving, so be mindful of nutritional labels!
Choose Lean Proteins
Did you know that eating a diet high in red or processed meats (bacon, lunch meat, etc.) is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease? Instead, opt for healthier proteins like eggs, beans, seafood, skinless chicken, and turkey. Fish like salmon, herring, and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health.
Avoid Processed Foods
The fresher, the better. Processed foods are often high in calories, trans fats, sugars, and sodium and low in nutrients. Eating too many processed foods can lead to weight gain, and, in turn, increase blood pressure, cholesterol, and your risk for heart disease.
Go Easy on the Salt
As you age, your taste buds start to diminish. Because of this, you may not find foods as flavorful as they used to be. So, many seniors add extra salt to their foods. But high-sodium foods can actually cause heart palpitations and raise your blood pressure.
The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that those over 70 consume no more than 1,200 milligrams of sodium per day.
Choose Healthy Fats
Believe it or not, fats are an important part of a healthy diet. The types of fats you consume, however, are what you need to be careful of. Choose foods with unsaturated fats, limit foods with saturated fat, and avoid foods with trans fat.
Choose: Olive oil, canola oil, vegetable and nut oils, trans-fat-free margarine, nuts, seeds, and avocado.
Limit/avoid: Butter, lard, bacon fat, cream, hydrogenated margarine and shortening, and coconut and palm oils.
Fill Up on Heart-Healthy Foods
Whole foods are high in vital vitamins and nutrients seniors need, including fiber, which studies show lowers heart disease risk. Add more of these whole foods, proteins, vegetables, fruits, and legumes to your diet:
- Kidney and black beans
- Berries, pears, peaches, apples, and oranges
- Broccoli, carrots, brussels sprouts, spinach, and red bell peppers
- Oats and brown rice
- Almond milk
- Walnuts, cashews, and almonds
Always consult your doctor before implementing a new diet.