Give Your Diet a Heart-Smart Makeover For Heart Research Month

February 14, 2022

Heart disease claims the life of one Australian every 30 minutes. That translates to 23 people in this country losing their lives to heart-related illness every day.

Lifestyle, especially your diet, plays a key role in heart health at every age. But the older we get, the more important it is to pay attention to what we do and don’t eat each day.

In honour of Heart Research Month, we are sharing tips older adults can use to improve their diet and lower the risk for cardiovascular-related disease.

Two people wearing red shirts, putting their hands together to make a heart shape.

7 Ways to Make Your Diet Heart Healthy

  1. Eat a healthy breakfast: If you tend to skip breakfast more often than not, make this the month you develop a healthier morning routine. Breakfast is the meal that sets the tone for the food choices—good or bad—that you make for the rest of the day. Instead of skipping it, begin the day right with a filling, nutritious breakfast. A bowl of oatmeal or a vegetable-based smoothie is high in fibre and will keep you feeling full longer. When you start the day right, you’ll be less likely to reach for a sugary mid-morning treat.
  2. Limit sweet treats: Like other unhealthy habits, indulging in sugar can be a tough one to beat. But it’s important to pay attention to how many sweets you eat, as elevated blood sugar is linked to heart disease. If you are struggling to avoid sugary treats, give yourself a limit. Most health guidelines say you should consume no more than 6 teaspoons per day of added sugar if you are a woman, and 9 teaspoons per day for men.
  3. Monitor your sodium: This can be challenging, partly because it’s not always easy to determine how much sodium is in food. Some sodium in your diet is necessary to maintain proper fluid levels in the body, as well as for nerve and muscle function. Too much, however, might increase your risk for high blood pressure and cardiac disease. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends adults consume no more than 5 grams of salt, or 2,000 milligrams of sodium, a day.
  4. Don’t forget soluble fibre: Soluble fibre plays an essential role in overall well-being. It helps maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which are both vital to heart health. Soluble fibre can be found in beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables, and seeds.
  5. Restrict processed foods: All too often our diets are full of packaged and processed foods. While they might be convenient when you don’t feel like cooking, most aren’t very healthy. They are high in sodium, trans fat, and calories. Each of these can contribute to high cholesterol, weight gain, and obesity—known risk factors for heart disease. If you find a pattern of needing to buy takeaway food, such as at the end of the week, cook and freeze an extra serving earlier in the week when you feel more motivated.
  6. Limit alcohol consumption: When it comes to heart health, people are often surprised to learn consuming too much alcohol increases your risk. While some studies seem to indicate that red wine in moderation may be good for your heart, the science is still unclear. Ask your GP for advice based on your personal medical history.
  7. Try the Mediterranean diet: People living in areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea seem to develop diseases at a much lower rate, including Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Researchers believe diet plays a role. It may be worth trying out a Mediterranean-style diet to protect heart health as you age. And remember, what makes your heart healthy is good for your brain, and helping prevent dementia, too.

Finally, find a GP you feel comfortable with and trust. By doing so, you’ll be more likely to stay on track with your physical health and preventative tests and screenings. Doing this can provide your doctor with the opportunity to intervene when smaller issues arise, such as slightly elevated cholesterol, before they get out of control.

In-Home Assistance for Older Adults

If an older Australian in your family is struggling to prepare healthy meals, consider enlisting the services of a home care agency. An experienced caregiver can assist with every detail, from planning and preparing well-balanced meals to cleanup. Contact us today to learn more!