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You Can't Beat a Healthy Heart!

                                        by Brandy Dotts

                                                                                           July 2019

 In our fast-paced world of modern convenience, where almost anything can be ordered and delivered with just a click of a button, it is easy to get caught up in food choices that masquerade as being healthy. These quick options fit nicely into our lives, but many contain high levels of sodium, sugar and preservatives. These may not be the best options for a healthy heart.

            Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the most common threat to the senior health of both men and women over the age of 65 in the United States.  Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the most common type of cardiovascular disease and claims over 375,000 lives annually. Certain medical conditions and lifestyle choices can affect heart health. Some of these include unmanaged diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity and being overweight or obese. Often, our diet and poor food choices are to blame.

            Reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, managing diabetes, getting regular exercise and taking appropriate medications to treat angina can all contribute to having a healthy heart. But one of the simplest choices to ensure having a healthy heart is to make smart food choices.

            Heart healthy shopping tips for seniors include buying colorful vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, spinach and leafy greens, apples, oranges, bananas. These are low in calories and high in fiber. Berries are also a great option. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are full of antioxidants. Avoid buying high fat meats and dairy products. Skinless cuts of lean meats such as chicken, turkey, pork or beef are the best. Baked or steamed fish, especially salmon and cold-water fish such as halibut, tuna, and mackerel are also delicious options. Ground meats should have less than 20% fat. Milk, cheese and yogurt should also be low in fat or 2% or less. Nuts are high in fiber and can help to maintain a healthy weight. Almonds and walnuts are high in heart healthy nutrients. Avoid buying butter and choose healthier options like coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.

            Many foods and drinks we buy are prepared and contain a ton of preservatives. Fruit “juice” can be full of sugar but is designed to sound healthy to the consumer. A lot of prepared foods are full of sodium, so it is important for seniors to read food labels when they are shopping. Most seniors need approximately 500mg of sodium per meal or 1500mg daily.

            There are some ways to stay on track to ensure maintaining a heart healthy diet. Start with making a shopping list and sticking to it. It is easy to fall for impulse buy sale items. Leave fresh fruits and vegetables on the counter so they are in plain sight and can be a quick snack on the go. To make food prep easier, pre-cut vegetables and fruits can be purchased. Frozen meats and fish are a better option because fresh options expire quickly. Heart healthy recipes can be found online. Eating for a healthy heart can feel overwhelming. Take small steps to make healthy changes and soon it will become a habit.