Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, affecting one in four Americans. In addition, almost 25% of people age 75 and older are living with heart disease. The good news is, there are ways to improve your health and decrease the chances of chronic illness and fatal effects of heart disease, and one of those is to eat a heart healthy diet.
What Makes a Heart Healthy Diet
The suggestions for a heart healthy diet are similar to what dieticians recommend for most people looking to improve their overall health. From improving immunity and fighting cancer to living healthier for longer, the basic components of your diet are about the same.
Eat the Rainbow. This one is relatively simple – Eat brightly colored fruits and vegetables. The bright colored foods, like red bell peppers, carrots and blueberries, are packed with antioxidants and other vitamins. Green, leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli are also good for you, as they have beta-carotene, Calcium, and Vitamin E and D..
Reduce Sodium. The average person gets about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, but we only need around 2,300. Take the salt shaker off the table and use herbs and seasonings for flavor instead. And be sure to read labels on processed foods and steer clear of ones filled with sodium.
Add Healthy Fats. Omega 3, found in fish, almonds and walnuts, can help lower triglycerides and reduce the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
Changing Eating Habits
Most people are pretty familiar with all of the above. But even so, it can be hard to integrate these habits into your daily life. Why is that? For one thing, what we ate in our childhood heavily influences what we eat as adults. Food is a source of comfort for many, so those high fat foods that tasted so good as a child have that same taste, but also the added feelings of good memories and being taken care of.
The best thing to do is work on making small changes over time. First you need to have a good idea of what your current eating patterns are. Keep a journal every day to understand what you’re putting in your body. After a couple of weeks look for any patterns.
Identify areas where you could make improvements. For example, you might start using herbs instead of salt, or switch out your regular pasta for whole grain. Take one of your target areas, and then put it into practice for 3-4 weeks. Once it’s become part of your routine, move on to the next couple. It’s easier to make changes when you do it gradually over time.
Some people might say it is just too expensive to eat a nutritious diet. But there are ways to eat healthy on a budget. Here are a few of our tips:
· Buy fruits and vegetables when they’re in season. In February and March, when you can by strawberries fresh from Florida for about half the price they are the rest of the year. Same is true for cantaloupe in July and August.
· Switch out store brands for name brands.
· Make a plan before you go to the store. If you’ve planned out meals and have a list you’re less likely to overspend.
· Get non-perishable items in bulk.
Eating a heart healthy diet is smart for everyone, but even more important for people with heart disease or diabetes. Our qualified team of professionals at Piedmont Home Care can help you or your loved ones maintain a healthier diet. From helping plan heart healthy meals to assisting in cooking and getting to the grocery store, our caregivers are able to help improve your quality of life.