February is Heart Health Month. Though heart disease risks increase with age, it doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of getting older. A more heart-healthy diet is an important step you can take to help your elderly loved one minimize those risks. February is a great time to take an inventory of the foods you and your loved ones are eating.
It is always wise to check with a doctor before starting a whole new way of eating. However, anyone is more likely to succeed with gradual diet changes, making meals healthier, but still appealing. It’s also okay to occasionally treat yourself or your loved one to a favorite but not-so-healthy food.
In March of 2017, we wrote a blog titled, “Why Seniors Don’t Want to Eat & What You Can Do About It.” If your loved one doesn’t want to eat, no matter what is on the menu, you should check out the causes and strategies discussed there. If bad habits or simply lack of awareness are the problem, consider these 10 heart health tips:
10 Heart-Healthy Guidelines Almost Everyone Can Follow
- Eat more colorful fruits and vegetables. Low in calories, high in vitamins, minerals and fiber older adults should eat at least five servings per day. Colors indicate a concentration of a specific nutrient, so try to choose a variety. Some ideas are to eat salads every day; make snacks of raw veggies like carrots, celery, pepper strips, and cucumbers; make a meal of a vegetable soup, especially if it is low in sodium.
- Select Whole Grains. Avoid overly-processed foods made from white flour. When you have a choice, go for the whole grain version in pastas, breads, and other types of foods. When possible, skip the bread and eat grains whole, for example oatmeal or brown rice.
- Eat less high-fat dairy or meat. Look for skinless cuts of lean meat with the least amount of visible fat. Ground meats should have less than 20% fat, whether it’s chicken, turkey, pork or beef. Foods like bacon or cheeseburgers should be eaten infrequently and in small portions. Yogurt, milk, cheese and other dairy products should also be low in fat — 2% “reduced fat” or less. Consider replacing butter with a more healthful spread that has healthy fats that may help lower bad cholesterol.
- Have two servings of fish a week. The one kind of fat you and your loved ones should get plenty of is fatty fish: two servings a week of salmon, trout, or other oily fish can help lower the risk of heart disease and increase your body’s level of healthy omega-3s.
- Add high fiber foods to meals. You can find fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans, whole-grains and nuts. A study at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine found that Seventh Day Adventist patients who ate nuts at least five times per week cut their risk of heart disease in half.
- Choose Dark Chocolate. The darker and more pure the chocolate, the better it is for your heart. Chocolate is high in other not-so-good things like fat, so limit intake to an ounce or so a day.
- Replace sugary drinks like soda or fruit juice with herbal teas. The jury is out on caffeine. Some studies show that high caffeine intake can cause heart rhythm issues and other studies show it has a protective effect. Green and black tea may be a good choice since they contain flavinols that are believed to protect and maintain a healthy heart.
- Limit salt intake. “Most seniors need around 500 mg of sodium per meal, or 1500 mg per day. If one serving of any particular item has more than 250 mg of sodium, you may want to search for a product that has less.
- Stock the kitchen with healthy items. Don’t even buy tempting junk food.
- Stay Hydrated. Often, seniors don’t feel thirsty, and it may be a big effort to get up and get a drink of water. Keep a water glass or bottle within reach of where he or she frequently sits. It’s still a good rule of thumb to try to drink eight 8-oz glasses of water a day. Soups or juicy fruits can also help with hydration.
Your senior can improve heart health no matter what their age, but it does take effort. By maintaining a healthy diet along with regular physical exercise and other good habits, seniors not only feel better, but can live longer, too. Everyone wants to stay healthy and vital for as long as possible. It’s never too late to start living a healthy lifestyle and get heart disease risks in check.
For seniors who live alone and find it difficult to prepare nutritious food for themselves, there are services available to help ensure they’re getting the food they needs. For example, Dakota Home Care, offering expert home care in Lincoln, ND and the surrounding areas, provides aides who can shop and cook and sit with your senior during meals. Services can be for as little as one hour per visit or up to 24-hours-per-day. Home Health Aides can assist with meals and companionship and a whole list of other things. Contact us online or call us at (877) 691-0015 for professional at-home senior care services.