Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It kills more people than all forms of cancer combined. Seniors ages 65 and up are more likely than younger people to suffer a heart attack, stroke, or coronary heart disease, the CDC says. An estimated 43.7 million Americans over 60 have one or more types of heart disease.
As concerning as the numbers are, there are ways to reduce your risk for heart disease through lifestyle, exercise and even diet.
Here are some heart-healthy recipes and foods, along with a few other heart health tips for seniors.
12 Heart-Healthy Foods for Seniors
1. Almonds and Walnuts
Both almonds and walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to important functions in the body. They also contain calcium, fiber, magnesium, vitamin E and heart-favorable monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Kidney and black beans contain calcium, B-complex vitamins, fiber, folate, magnesium, niacin and omega-3 fatty acids.
Berries are high in antioxidants and fiber, along with calcium, fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins. Try blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries to find your favorite.
Broccoli packs a punch with beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, folate and vitamins C and E. Broccoli can be cooked into dishes or just eaten raw or with healthy dips.
Carrots are loaded with carotenes, primarily beta-carotene. Studies have associated higher levels of beta carotene with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
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6. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate contains healthy amounts of resveratrol and cocoa phenols, which can lower blood pressure. Dark chocolates are healthier for you, with higher cocoa content and lower fat than milk chocolate.
Fish like salmon and tuna are full of omega-3s, which can decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats, help lower triglycerides and slow the rate of artery hardening.
8. Green tea
Antioxidants in green tea can help your arteries stay flexible longer, staving off plaque buildup, according to studies. There is evidence that blood vessel function can improve very quickly after consuming a cup of green tea.
9. Red Bell Peppers
Like carrots, red bell peppers are full of carotenes, along with fiber, folate, potassium and B-complex vitamins. They can also make a quick snack, along with carrots and broccoli.
Spinach is great for the heart, with beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, folate, and vitamins C and E. Folate is important for building and maintaining healthy red blood cells.
11. Substitute Milks
Almond and soy milks are good choices if you’re lactose intolerant, or just to cut out some fats. Almond milk is rich in magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E. Soy milk contains B-complex vitamins, calcium, folate, magnesium and potassium.
12. Whole grains
Brown rice provides B-complex vitamins, fiber and magnesium. Oats and oatmeal are a go-to for protein and fiber, which can also help you manage cholesterol.
These heart-healthy foods can be combined any number of ways for tasty meals.
10 Heart-Healthy Diet Recipes for Seniors
Here are some quick recipes that can help seniors eat better.
1. 5 A Day Salad
This nutrient-rich salad has 10 vegetables, including heart-friendly spinach, broccoli and carrots. Each serving is equivalent to five cups of vegetables.
2. American Goulash
This is a pasta and beef dish from the Old Country. It cooks in one pot, making it economical as well as healthy.
3. Banana Split Oatmeal
Frozen yogurt and bananas combine for a healthy breakfast, dessert or snack later in the day.
4. Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas
This quesadilla gets its flavor from heart-friendly black beans and sweet potatoes instead of loads of cheese. Use wheat tortillas for extra nutrition.
5. Butternut Squash Soup
This is a smooth and tasty comfort soup. Butternut squash is often sold peeled and cubed in grocery stores, making preparation easier.
6. Farmers Market Omelets
This becomes a healthier alternative with the addition of seasonal vegetables. Add cheese or garden-fresh salsa for a tasty breakfast or light lunch.
7. Fusilli with Broccoli Pesto
Broccoli is used in this pasta sauce instead of the usual pesto herbs. Paired with fusilli pasta and sprinkled with almonds, it’s a flavorful, healthy option.
8. Green Veggie Bowl With Chicken
This 30-minute dinner features rice, green beans, kale, brown rice and tahini. Give it a zing with a squeeze of lemon before eating.
9. Indian Beef Flank Steak and Rice
This marinated beef flank is grilled and served with rice, vegetables and a seasoned yogurt sauce.
10. Mediterranean Grilled Salmon
This dish uses heart-healthy salmon, and doesn’t take too long to make. Pair with Mediterranean-style greens or couscous.
For other heart-healthy recipe ideas, visit these websites:
- American Heart Association
- Eating Well
- Mayo Clinic
- National Institute on Aging
Other Heart-Healthy Tips for Seniors
Besides changing your diet, there are many other things you can do to keep your heart healthy. Check out these tips from the National Institute on Aging.
Be More Physically Active
Before you start some physical activity, talk it over with your doctor. If possible, aim to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Every day is best. It doesn’t have to be done all at once.
Learn how to relax and cope with problems to improve physical and emotional health. Consider a stress management program, meditation, physical activity, and talking things out with friends or family.
Keep a Healthy Weight
By being phsically active, you can balance your intake of calories with the amount you burn off. This helps maintain a healthy weight.
Men should not have more than two drinks a day and women only one. According to the NIA, oOne drink is equal to:
- One 12-ounce bottle or can of ale, regular beer or wine cooler
- One 8- or 9-ounce bottle or can of malt liquor
- One 5-ounce glass of red or white wine
- One 1.5-ounce shot glass of distilled spirits
Manage Your Medical Conditions
Watch your diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol. Follow your doctor’s advice to manage these conditions, and take medications as directed.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. Smoking adds to the damage to artery walls. Quitting, even in later life, can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.