Coronary heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in the United States. As you age, you become more at risk for heart-related complications, but you can lower this risk by eating heart-healthy foods.
Giving yourself or a loved one proper nutrition can be difficult, but there are several programs and opportunities available to provide nutritious foods. If you want to provide healthy nutrition from your home, consider this your guide to 8 foods and nutrients for senior heart health.
Starting off our list is the food group many people love, whole grains. This includes several different products you can add to almost any meal in your day.
Whole grains provide fiber and other nutrients used to regulate your blood pressure and heart health. These grains are considered plant-based food and can lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Whole grain products include:
- Whole-wheat flour
- Whole-grain bread
- High-fiber cereal (at least 5 grams or more per serving)
- Brown rice
- Whole-grain pasta
- Oatmeal (steel-cut or regular)
Lean meats, poultry, low-fat dairy, and eggs are some of the best protein sources you can find. These products provide your body with amino acids used to carry signals within our brains. Protein is necessary for healthy bodies and hearts, but be careful about the types you eat.
High-fat and processed proteins offer less nutrition and can raise your cholesterol and blood pressure. Focus on products like fish, beans, poultry, nuts, and low-fat dairy to help prevent heart disease. Eat lean, plant-based, or low-dairy protein such as:
- Skinless poultry
- Lean ground meats
- Skim or low-fat milk
- Low-fat yogurt
- Low-fat cheese
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats, helpful for lowering cholesterol. A study focused on the benefits of avocados showed they can decrease levels of dense LDL cholesterol, known to increase the risk of heart disease.
This fruit is rich in potassium, a heart-benefiting nutrient. Potassium can provide your heart with many benefits, including:
- Better blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- A more regulated heartbeat
Low-Salt Foods & Seasonings
Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which causes a high risk of stroke and heart disease. The easiest way to lower your salt intake is to reduce the amount you use in your home-cooked meals.
Canned soups and microwave meals are easy to make, but they can contain high amounts of salt. If you enjoy the convenience but don’t want the salt intake, look for low-sodium products at the grocery store.
Many seasoning blends have salt added to them, but many no salt added versions of your favorite options exist. If you’re looking for healthier options, consider adding these items into your pantry:
- Salt-free seasoning blends
- No added or reduced salt canned soups & prepared meals
- Reduced-salt condiments (ketchup, soy sauce)
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their heart-related benefits, and this nutrient is found in many types of fish. Long-term salmon ingestion has been linked with significantly lower diastolic blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce blood clotting
- Lower the risk of stroke & heart failure
- Reduce irregular heartbeats
If you are not a fan of fish, there are supplements to help you get your daily omega-3 fatty acids. No matter your choice, there are many omega-3-rich options you can choose from, such as:
- Lake trout
- Atlantic mackerel
- Fish oil
Leafy Green Vegetables
Eating leafy greens can provide you with loads of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin K, which can protect your cardiovascular health. One study found an increase in leafy green consumption correlated with a 16% lower frequency of heart disease.
Some leafy greens you can add to your diet include:
- Bok choy
Fruit can provide you with several nutrients critical for your health (they taste pretty good too). Berries are packed with antioxidants to protect against stress and inflammation related to heart disease development. Bananas provide your body with potassium, a mineral essential for your heart health.
You can add fruit into your diet as a quick snack, a nice dessert, or a complementing topping for your meals. Some fruits to consider adding to your diet include:
You may not know it, but dark chocolate is a heart-healthy food. Studies have found frequent dark chocolate eaters had a 57% lower risk of coronary heart disease. This does not mean you should eat tons of chocolate, but don’t be afraid to have a treat every now and then!
Go for high quality when choosing dark chocolate. It should be at least 70% cocoa to get the associated benefits.
Protect Your Heart Health
Our heart is a vital organ we tend to overlook, so we should treat it with care. Older adults are at a greater risk of heart-related diseases, so a nutrient-rich diet is important to ensure a healthy future for you or your loved one. Start protecting your heart health today.