According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Seniors are especially at risk, and the average annual rates of a first cardiovascular event rise from 3 per 1000 men before age 44 to 74 per 1000 men by age 85. Women have comparable rates 10 years later in life.
Heart disease is serious, but it’s not inevitable. While some factors are outside of your control – family history, gender and age – others are possible to change. Start here:
Seven Heart Healthy Lifestyle Tips
- Avoid Smoking and Alcohol Use
- Aim for 30 to 60 Minutes of Daily Physical Activity
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
- Strive for Seven to Eight Hours of Quality Sleep Each Night
- Manage Stress
- See Your Doctor Regularly
- Eat a Heart Healthy Diet
Many of these steps are self-explanatory, but when it comes to eating a heart healthy diet, seniors sometimes struggle. The idea of shopping for smart food and complex menu items or preparing elaborate recipes can feel daunting. Emotions also sometimes take over and create dietary challenges, especially for seniors who are homebound, spend a lot of time alone and are less active. Mindless snacking is easy to do when you’re bored, frustrated, depressed or feeling isolated from family and friends. When you are mindlessly snacking all day, smart food is often the most difficult (and least appealing!) option to grab.
If you’re concerned about your heart health and trying to make some dietary improvements, there are a few tips that can help make choosing smart foods easier and more enjoyable too. Let’s take a look at them.
Create a Heart Healthy Meal Plan
Impulse shopping often leads to more junk food purchases and less smart food choices. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan. Take Sunday afternoon to create a meal plan for the week. Include breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as two “smart food” snacks each day. Then, do a pantry inventory to determine what you need to buy and create your shopping list. Knowing ahead of time what you plan to buy will make the grocery store feel less overwhelming, and this can help you make smart food choices too.
The Health Benefits of a Colorful Plate
As you’re creating your meal plan and shopping list, keep color and variety in mind. A quick inventory of your basket in the checkout line should have you seeing all the colors of the rainbow. Colors indicate concentrations of specific vitamins and minerals. A few examples – tomatoes are dense in lutein, kale is packed with vitamin A and C, and blueberries contain a healthy dose of polyphenols and antioxidant properties. A colorful plate also looks more appealing to the eye, and the visual appeal of your plate is important because it helps to improve your appetite and makes for a more satisfying meal.
Frozen Instead of Fresh Smart Food Choices
Fresh fruits and vegetables are great, but washing and prepping them can sometimes feel like a bit too much to manage. Additionally, fresh produce goes bad quickly, so it might be difficult to buy everything fresh if you don’t drive or getting to the grocery store even once a week is challenging.
As a quick and easy alternative, pick frozen fruits and vegetables instead. Frozen fruits and vegetable contain the same amount of valuable nutrients, but they’re more convenient to store and use with little to no preparation necessary. Additionally, they often cost less and last longer than fresh varieties. This can make them a real win especially if you’re living on a fixed income.
Keep Healthy Eating Simple
Not everything has to be an elaborate meal to be healthy, so don’t be afraid to keep things simple. A bowl of mixed seeds, almonds and walnuts is a great smart food snacking option. As are sliced cucumbers and peppers with packaged hummus for dipping. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, grabbing an apple, a pre-packaged fruit cup or a hand full of grapes is an excellent choice. For lunch or dinner, consider and almond butter sandwich on whole grain bread, a turkey and avocado wrap, hard boiled eggs with a side of vegetables, or an omelet with cheese and vegetables.
Once you feel confident trying these easy smart food snack and meal ideas, consider that each new inspiration can be made in many different ways. Change up the vegetables that go with your hummus, add a different kind of cheese to your omelet, or make your wrap with ham or mixed veggies instead of turkey. This can help to keep your heart healthy diet interesting so you don’t get bored.
Smart Foods & Meal Prep
At the heart of any simple an effective healthy eating plan for seniors is meal prep. If you can get in the habit of making this a weekly project, it’ll make your life easier throughout the week. Prep certain smart foods that are easy to reheat and can be prepared in bulk. Then, you can simply break them down into smaller portions throughout the week. For instance:
- Cook quinoa in larger weekly batches
- Wash and prep fruits and vegetables that you didn’t buy frozen
- Prepare chicken breasts that you can chop and refrigerate to be added to salads or meals
- Make a large batch of soup to freeze in individual portions in tightly sealed bags
Remember that the goal of meal prep is to make things easier, not harder. Don’t take on too much. Take breaks when you need to. Aim to complete just a few tasks that provide you with variety and smart food choices to enjoy throughout the week.
When You Need Support to Eat Healthy
While meal prep is an important part of any senior’s healthy eating plan, sometimes it can feel like a big undertaking. If you have difficulty standing for a long period of time, aren’t quite confident using the stove or simply feel like you need some extra support, ask for help.
Signs that it might be time to bring in some help include a refrigerator full of spoiled food, repeated meals with little variety, skipping meals regularly, sudden weight loss or gain, frequently feeling too tired to prepare a meal, or a strong reliance on junk food instead of healthy choices.
For many seniors, having support from a friend or a loved one makes a world of difference. This might mean having someone agree to drive you to the store once a week, grocery shop for you, sit with you to write out your meals for the week, and / or spend time with you prepping meals on Sunday afternoons. Having help offers the added bonus of providing you with companionship. That is healthy for both your body and your mind.
If your loved ones aren’t available to help, consider in home care as a safe alternative. A professional caregiver is there to offer you support when and how you need it. Your plan of care can be personalized to meet your needs today, and it adapts to offer more support as your needs change too.
Keeping your heart healthy as you age can feel overwhelming. Don’t get discouraged. Start with even one small change and those bigger lifestyle changes will soon feel much more within your reach. If you need support, Salus Homecare is always her to help. Reach out anytime. We’ll work with you to find a path toward meeting your heart health and longevity goals so you can remain independent and in the home that you love longer.