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Heart Healthy Diets for Elderly and Seniors

Updated on August 15, 2013

Diet as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

The importance of healthy eating habits and following through with eating nutritional meals every single day is no easy task for Elderly and Senior individuals. From grocery shopping to meal preparation, certain chronic illnesses such as Arthritis can make it difficult to go grocery shopping and perform the tasks of cooking, which require a certain level of manual dexterity.

It can also be difficult knowing what foods to buy that provide the nutrients that will prevent or maintain common Elderly problems such as high blood pressure or joint pain, promote heart health and brain health, and keep energy levels high throughout the day.


To reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, it's important that Elderly and Senior individuals

  • Follow a healthy eating plan that doesn't have empty calories found in many snacks and foods that have high sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat. The National High Blood Pressure Education program recommends no more than 2300 or 1500 milligrams of sodium consumption a day.
  • Exercise regularly to burn calories from food and maintain a healthy weight.
  • If prescribed medication, be sure to take it as directed, but talk to a doctor or registered dietician about how it may interact with types of food that you eat.

Recommended Caloric Intake Based on Activity Levels

Activity Level
Sedentary
Moderately Active
Active
Men
 
 
 
Age
 
 
 
61-65
2,000
2,400
2,600
66-70
2,000
2,200
2,600
71-75
2,000
2,200
2,600
76+
2,000
2,200
2,400
Activity Level
Sedentary
Moderately Active
Active
Women
 
 
 
Age
 
 
 
61-65
1,600
1,800
2,000
66-70
1,600
1,800
2,000
71-75
1,600
1,800
2,000
76+
1,600
1,800
2,000
(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture - Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion) 1. Sedentary - Lifestyle that includes only light physical activity associated with normal day to day activities. 2. Moderately Active - Lifestyle that includes phy

DASH Diet

Having high blood pressure puts you at a greater risk for suffering a stroke, kidney disease, or a heart attack. According to the National Institutes of Health, individuals with normal blood pressure at age 55 have a 90 percent risk of developing high blood pressure, which is why it's so essential to lead a healthy lifestyle as you age.

One diet that has been proven to lower blood pressure and promote heart heart health is the DASH Diet. It is currently ranked the #1 Overall Diet by the U.S. World & News Report. This diet is easier to follow than other commercially advertised diet because it doesn't deprive you from eating foods from any one particular food group. It's a well-balanced 2000 calories-a-day diet that focuses on decreasing daily sodium intake and increasing consumption of foods that have nutrients known to lower blood pressure such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, protein, and fiber.


DASH Diet Foods and Significance

Foods
Significance to DASH Diet
Whole Grains - bread and rolls, pasta, pita bread, bagel, cereals, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn
Energy and Fiber
Broccoli, carrots, green beans, green peas, lima beans, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
Potassium, Magnesium, Fiber
Apples, apricots, bananas, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, melons, peaches, strawberries, pineapples
Potassium, Magnesium, Fiber
Fat-free or Low-Fat milk, cheese, frozen yogurt
Calcium, Protein
Lean Meats, Poultry, Fish
Protein, Magnesium
Almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, lentils
Energy, Magnesium, Protein, Fiber
Fats & Oils - Vegetable Oil (canola, corn, extra-virgin olive, safflower), light salad dressing, soft margarine, light salad dressing
Healthy oils used in cooking such as extra-virgin olive oil are important sources of good fat (
(Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute - DASH Eating Plan) Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fat-free/low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts. Discourages red meat, processed foods, sweets, fried foods, foods high in satur

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that is based on the traditonal foods of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. Scientists have found that people residing around the Mediterranean have the lowest rate of chronic illness and the longest life span attributed to their healthy diet. Further research has found that following a Mediterranean Diet can lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and even Alzheimer's Disease.

So what's the secret? The Mediterranean Diet is very similar to the DASH Diet. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, eating fish and poultry at least twice a week, using extra-virgin (least processed) olive oil as the primary source of fat to cook meals, herbs and spices to flavor food, and red wine in moderation.

Fish is a main staple of the Mediterranean Diet. Mackerel, Albacore tuna, and salmon have Omega-3 fatty acids which are incredibly healthy and can help to decrease blood clots, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation throughout the body, and improve brain health.

Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid

Source

Eating Foods for Optimum Energy

People who eat too many "empty calorie" foods - fried foods, fatty foods, desserts, sweets, and processed snacks - may feel tired and sluggish all the time. For each cell in our body to work at their best and for us to feel our best, we need to eat foods that have high nutrition per calorie. Vegetables, beans, nuts, lean protein, fruits, seeds, whole grain are foods that keep energy levels high.

Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that can help the body get rid of chemicals that cause fatigue and illness. Eat fruits such as melons, raspberries, and blueberries and vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.

Research shows that foods that contain Omega-3 fats can be great for brain health - improving mood, memory, and thinking. Eat fish, flax seeds, walnuts, and leafy greens.

Some Elderly and Senior individuals may not be able to eat full meals each day because of a lack of appetite or the ways some medications affect appetite. For this reason, it's common for some Elders to snack between meals, but when snacking, choose snacks that are healthy. Some snack ideas include a mix of nuts with dried fruit, yogurt with granola, or whole grain crackers with baby carrots and hummus.

Lastly, be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. Elders should drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. The less the Elderly drink, the less thirsty they are, which puts them at greater risk for dehydration.

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