Heart Healthy Foods for Seniors

February is National Heart Health Month and one of the best ways to prevent or control cardiovascular disease is through diet.  Keep the following thoughts in mind while shopping for yourself or a loved one.  The key to a healthy heart may still be through the stomach.

Fruits and vegetables are an essential component of a healthy diet that may be overlooked by seniors.  Fresh may be preferable but frozen and canned items can still provide good nutrition and may be more suitable in some situations.  Look for a good variety of dark, colorful vegetables and fruits, for example tomatoes and spinach which contain lutein, excellent for eye health.

According to a recent study at McMaster University, a high fruit and vegetable diet may lessen the genetic factor in heart disease.  

“A heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish significantly reduces the chance of a second heart attack and stroke in people with cardiovascular disease, McMaster University researchers have found.”

A five-year study of almost 32,000 patients (average age 66.5 years) in 40 countries discovered those who ate a heart-healthy diet had a:

    35 per cent reduction in risk for cardiovascular death
    14 per cent reduction in risk for new heart attacks
    28 per cent reduction in risk for congestive heart failure
    19 per cent reduction in risk for stroke

While shopping, look for leaner cuts of meat such at the loin, or those that contain less than 20 per cent fat.  Try to include two portions of fish such as salmon or trout per week to provide heart-friendly Omega 3 fats.  Studies have demonstrated that these fatty acids can lower blood fat(triglycerides) which put you at risk for heart disease.  They may also help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Low fat yogurt, nuts and whole grains for fiber are also good choices for a heart healthy diet at any age.

If this diet is a leap from what one is used to eating, it is best to start making changes gradually.  Introducing healthier choices over time rather than all at once. 

Look for the Heart and Stroke Shopping List with more tips at heartandstroke.on.ca .  
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has also developed an Iphone application “<30 Days”, designed to “empower you with information and support to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.”  This free app is available through iTunes or on the Foundation Website under the Heart eTools tab.