The heart is one of the body’s most important organs: it pumps blood throughout the body, carrying nutrients and oxygen to all other organs, bones, and muscles. That’s why when diseases occur that affect the heart, it can be serious or fatal. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for adults in the United States—one person dies from cardiovascular disease every 34 seconds. Coronary heart disease is the most common cardiovascular disease, and occurs when there is buildup in the arteries, which can lead to chest pain, blood clots, and heart attacks.
With these facts in mind, it’s easy to understand why doctors preach about a heart healthy lifestyle. Keeping the heart strong and healthy by combining proper nutrition with physical exercise drastically limits the risks of heart disease.
What to Know About Cholesterol
One of the most important parts of maintaining heart health is preventing high cholesterol. Cholesterol is a substance that is found in the blood, but too much cholesterol can lead to buildups of fat in the blood vessels. High cholesterol can cause severe complications, including chest pain, heart attacks, and strokes.
Proteins carry cholesterol throughout the blood, a combination that is called a lipoprotein. The prefix “lipo” means fat, which refers to how high cholesterol can cause a deposit of fat in blood vessels. There are two types of lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol and builds up in the walls of arteries. HDL is the “good” cholesterol and travels throughout the body, collecting excess cholesterol and delivering it to the liver to be filtered out.
Eating Heart Healthy
There’s a lot more to eating heart healthy than limiting cholesterol. Doctors recommend controlling portion sizes, eating more fruits and vegetables, and limiting sodium and unhealthy fats. Keeping a small portion size and eating more fruits and vegetables is the best way to keep calories low and nutrients high. Using small plates for serving meals and turning to fruits or veggies when in need of a snack are easy ways to help maintain heart health.
Like high cholesterol, having too much sodium in the diet can lead to all sorts of complications, including high blood pressure. Sodium can be hidden in many common foods, especially processed foods like canned soups and condiments. It’s important to look for low-sodium labels when grocery shopping as well as limiting the use of table salt.
Lastly, too much saturated or trans fat is detrimental to heart health. Too much of these bad fats can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Eating lean meats, reducing the use of butter and margarine, and checking labels on sweets and baked goods for saturated and trans fats are all great practices to limit unhealthy fats. On the other hand, healthy fats are crucial for a heart healthy diet. These fats can be found in nuts, seeds, avocadoes, and olive and vegetable oils.
Although eating heart healthy might seem daunting, Heart to Home Meals is here to help. Our Heart Healthy diet follows FDA guidelines and contains: 600mg or less sodium, 60mg or less cholesterol, 1g or less saturated fat per 100g.
Keeping an Active Lifestyle
Along with eating healthy food, having an active lifestyle is essential to maintaining a healthy heart. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Activities that are considered moderate exercise include brisk walking, water aerobics, dancing, and even gardening. More vigorous activities include hiking uphill, running, swimming laps, heavy yardwork, and cycling.
Consistent exercise has been proven to limit the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancers. In addition, it often leads to other benefits, such as better sleep, improved cognition, and lower levels of depression and anxiety. For some tips on exercising in cold (or warm) weather, see our blog 5 Ways Seniors Can Stay Active During the Winter Months.
Heart to Home Meals is here to help you eat Heart Healthy
At Heart to Home Meals, we’re not simply focused on offering delicious and nutritious meals—we’re also focused on how they can be an important part of your health maintenance. For seniors who are trying to eat heart healthy, we have a variety of meals that you can browse here.
Regardless of your specific dietary needs, all of our meals have nutritional information easily available to help you make a health-conscious choice, while still being able to look forward to your meal.