Heart disease is the nation’s leading cause of death in both women and men, and the number one risk factor for heart disease is age. Aging often results in a thickened or weakened heart muscle, raising the risk for this disease. According to the American Heart Association, among seniors between the ages of 60 and 79, approximately 70% have cardiovascular disease and around 66% of heart disease deaths occur in individuals over the age of 75.
The month of February happens to be American Heart Month, and if you’re a senior or a caregiver to a senior with heart disease, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about making some changes to improve heart health. Making small changes can have big results, and eating a heart-healthy diet is one of the 7 factors to improving your heart health, according to the Heart Association.
When combined with other healthy habits, eating a heart-healthy diet can help you control blood pressure, control blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight, and lower cholesterol. Whether your loved one already has heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol or you want to simply prevent these problems, learn to follow a heart-healthy diet can reduce the risk of heart attack and prevent or manage these conditions.
Eat Less of These Foods for Better Heart Health
It’s never fun to completely eliminate favorite foods from your diet, so instead of making certain foods off limits, it’s a better idea to focus on eating less of unhealthy foods. It always seems like the minute you make a food completely off limits, you suddenly have a craving for it. When switching to a heart-healthy diet, focus on eating less of the following foods:
- Trans fats that come from deep fried foods or partially hydrogenated fats
- Saturated fats often found in snack foods, fast food, and fried food
- White breads, refined pastas, white rice, and sugary cereals
- Packaged foods, particularly those high in sugar or sodium
- Processed meats, such as lunch meats, salami, sausage, and bacon
- Processed cheeses
- High fat dairy products
- High fat meats and organ meats
- Butter and lard
Don’t forget, even the Mayo Clinic says it’s okay to have an occasional treat now and then. Grabbing a few potato chips or having a candy bar occasionally is just fine. However, make sure you don’t indulge in these types of foods regularly or give up on your heart-healthy eating plan.
Foods and Nutrients You Need in a Heart-Healthy Diet
Luckily, eating a heart-healthy diet isn’t just about limiting foods. There are many foods you can add to your diet to enjoy better heart health. Some great foods you should eat more of on a heart-healthy diet include:
- Colorful veggies and fruits – fresh and frozen options are great
- High quality proteins, such as poultry and fish – fatty fish like tuna or salmon are packed with heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D
- Healthy fats, such as avocados, olive oil, flax seeds, raw nuts, and fish oils
- Low-fat dairy products, such as unsweetened low-fat yogurt or skim milk
- High fiber pastas, breads, or cereals made from legumes or whole grains
- Dark chocolate – at least 70% cocoa
Stay on Track with Help from a Caregiver
Our caregivers can help with everything from shopping to meal prep to keep your loved one on track to a healthier heart!
Making Your Heart-Healthy Diet Taste Great
Cutting back on fat, salt, and sugar doesn’t have to leave you eating bland, tasteless food. If you’ve become used to eating a lot of highly processed foods packed with sugar, salt, and fat, your taste buds can become accustomed to these tastes. However, learning how to properly prepare healthy foods can help you create meals that are delicious and packed with flavor. Here are a few tips you can use to make your heart-healthy diet taste great.
- Season veggies with soy sauce, vinegar, onion, citrus, herbs, or garlic for extra flavor
- Try sautéing veggies in a bit of sesame oil, olive oil, wine, or broth
- Add a bit of fruit to a veggie dish to sweeten them up naturally
- Marinate lean proteins before cooking to boost the flavor and keep them tender and moist
- Use a rub that mixes together seasonings for extra flavor
- Poach poultry or fish in a flavorful liquid, such as chicken stock, vegetable stock, or even lemon juice
- Top proteins with a bit of parsley, salsa, or a squeeze of lemon juice
- Sauté whole grains in olive oil before cooking them to bring out their naturally nutty flavor
- Season foods with spices instead of using salt
- Cover whole grains with a flavorful liquid instead of just water
- Sprinkle fruits with sweet spices like nutmeg, clove, or cinnamon instead of adding sugar
- Buy fruits and veggies that are in season for the best flavor or go with frozen options
Food Substitutions that Satisfy Cravings without Risking Heart Health
As you or your senior loved one works to change to a heart-healthy diet, you may experience some cravings along the way. To deal with cravings, don’t ignore them. Instead, substitute healthier options to satisfy your cravings so you can still enjoy what you eat without risking your heart health. Here’s a list of some common cravings and some healthy food substitutions you can use to satisfy those cravings.
|The Food You’re Craving||The Heart Healthy Substitution|
|Candy||Try homemade dried strawberries or some fresh berries instead|
|Ice Cream||Make a low-sugar, frozen fruit smoothie|
|Chocolate Bar||Go with 70% or higher dark chocolate|
|Potato Chips||Grab some kale chips, roasted chickpeas, baked veggie chips, or a handful of unsalted or low salt nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, or pecans|
|Soda||Go with herbal teas, flavored seltzer water, or water with a bit of lemon or lime juice in it|
|White Pasta||Substitute in edamame spaghetti or spaghetti squash|
|French Fries||Eat some roasted or grilled sweet potato slices|
|Pretzels||Crunch on some raw veggies instead or some plain popcorn|
|Bacon||Give turkey bacon a try, since it’s lower in saturated fat|
|Cheese||Use a stronger-tasting cheese so you just need a small amount|
|Fried Foods||Lightly bread and bake the same foods for a similar flavor and crunch|
|Chocolate Covered Ice Cream Bars||Make a frozen banana on a stick and coat with a tiny bit of dark chocolate|
|Fast Food Burger||Try a veggie burger or turkey burger instead|
|Tortilla Chips||Go with reduced sodium, baked tortilla chips|
|Cake||Have some angel food cake|
|Cream Based Soups||Enjoy veggie heavy, broth-based soups|
|Muffins, Croissants or White Bread||Trade for whole grain rolls or melba toast|
|Mashed Potato and Gravy||Go with a baked potato|
Heart Health FAQs
Along with following a heart-healthy diet, there are many other things that can be done to help your senior loved one live with heart disease. Here’s a look at some important heart health FAQs for caregivers that provide helpful information.
FAQ#1 – Other than diet, what else can be done to promote heart health?
Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing stress, and stopping smoking can all help improve heart health and lower the risk of heart disease.
FAQ #2 – What exercises are appropriate for my loved one with heart disease?
Strength training, aerobic exercise, and exercises that improve flexibility can all be helpful. However, you should talk to your senior’s physician before starting any exercise plan.
FAQ #3 – How can I get my senior loved one to begin exercising?
One of the best options is to walk or engage in other exercise with your loved one to help motivate them. Start with just 10 minutes and encourage them to try regular exercise for a week to see how they are feeling. Having a caregiver help your loved one exercise may also help.
FAQ #4 – My loved one fears having more heart problems in the future. What can I do to help?
It’s normal for your loved one to feel anxious. Help them engage in activities that improve heart health to give them better peace of mind. Make sure your loved one is involved in enjoyable activities to reduce the risk of depression. Relaxation techniques are often helpful for heart patients who feel anxious, since they reduce anxiety while promoting heart health.
FAQ #5 – What if I’m having trouble caring for my senior loved one alone?
We are a family-owned, private company that offers care for seniors, whether you need companionship care or more advanced nursing and rehab services for your loved one. Whether you need someone to help for a short time or on a daily basis, we’re happy to work with you to make sure your senior gets the very best care possible.
If you’re struggling to to make sure your loved one maintains a heart healthy diet, know that you’re not alone. Getting dinner on the table for your family can be difficult enough as it is. For help with daily meals, shopping, and other care for your loved one, call us at (610) 269-2935.
A Caregiver Can Make Heart Healthy Eating Easy
Our caregivers can help take care of daily meal prep for your loved to keep them on track to a healthier heart!