Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide. The statistics are startling. Research shows that 1 in 4 deaths are linked to heart disease. Heart health experts say it doesn’t have to be this way. Many of the risk factors that lead to cardiac-related illnesses can be controlled through lifestyle choices, especially what we do and don’t eat.
In honor of National Heart Month, we are sharing a few tips to give your diet a heart-smart makeover.
Ways to Improve Heart Health through Diet
- Start the day with a healthy breakfast.
You’ve probably heard your doctor or another medical professional say it’s important not to skip breakfast. That’s because breakfast sets the tone for the food choices you’ll make all day—good or bad. A high protein breakfast, such as a bowl of oatmeal or a smoothie, will help you feel full longer. You’ll be less likely to feel sluggish and crave sugary treats mid-morning.
- Watch your sodium intake.
This can be tricky. Some sodium is necessary for maintaining proper fluid levels in the body, as well as for nerve and muscle function. Too much, however, can set you up for cardiac issues. It contributes to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Unfortunately, many western diets contain too much sodium. “Get the Scoop on Sodium and Salt” is a good article to review.
- Limit sugary treats and beverages.
Sugary treats like baked goods, soda, and candy are another part of many people’s diets. While an occasional indulgence is probably fine, moderation is important. Elevated blood sugar is linked to heart disease, especially among women. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons per day of added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.
- Incorporate foods with soluble fiber into your menus.
Soluble fiber plays a role in overall health, including managing cholesterol and blood sugar. Both of these are important to maintaining a healthy heart. The American Heart Association Eating Plan recommends a total intake of 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day with 6 to 8 grams of it being soluble fiber.
- Avoid or limit processed foods.
Many times, seniors who live alone rely on fast foods or convenience foods to avoid cooking for one. While they might be easier, most are high in sodium, trans fat, and calories. All of these contribute to weight gain, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, which are known risk factors for heart disease.
- Limit alcoholic beverages.
One surprising lifestyle choice people don’t often associate with heart problems is consuming too much alcohol. While some studies say red wine might be good for your heart, not everyone agrees. Ask your doctor for advice based on your personal medical history.
- Explore Mediterranean-style diets.
People who live in areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea seem to have lower incidences of a variety of illnesses ranging from diabetes and heart disease to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Learning more about the Mediterranean diet might help you adopt a healthier way of eating.
- Build a strong relationship with a primary care doctor.
One final suggestion is to find a primary care doctor you trust and feel comfortable with and see them regularly. You’ll be more likely to stay on track with preventive tests and screenings when you have an established relationship with a doctor.
Nutritious Meals Served Every Day at Heritage
Residents at Heritage communities enjoy delicious, nutritious meals every day. If you or a loved one is considering moving to a senior living community in Michigan or Indiana, we invite you to call us and schedule a visit. One of our experienced team members will be happy to take you on a tour and arrange for you to stay for lunch! Call us today to set up a time.