February: Heart Healthy Month

February is heart healthy month. Heart disease is the “leading cause of death in America for both men and women,” but in so many instances this can be prevented.

There are many simple steps the elderly can take to improve their health and enhance their overall quality of life, and with that, reduce their chances of suffering from heart diseases. However, it is very important for those caring for the elderly not to overwhelm them with things to do, habits to change and lifestyle decisions to make. Rather, focusing on small actions is key. A slight change to the diet is one good way.

One of these ideas that has recently been purported as being very beneficial to health – especially for the elderly demographic – is the ingestion of beetroot juice. In a study undertaken by Wake Forest School of Medicine researchers, it was found that “seniors who had a dose [of beetroot juice] a day for a week saw their endurance improve by 24 percent compared to no improvement among those given a single dose of beetroot juice.” For people aged 69 and older with any risk of heart failure, beetroot juice seems to have something very powerful in it. They were given the juice prior to cycling exercise tests and the results spoke for themselves.

When shopping for food for seniors, there are a few points on which to focus: keep the cart colorful; the more colorful produce, the better (this also acts as prevention for cancer). If you can get five different colors on your dinner plate, you’re doing great. Heather Schwartz, senior nutrition expert at A Place for Mom commented that you should be able to see in your cart “the rainbow of benefits each color has to offer. Colors indicate a concentration of a specific nutrient; for example, tomatoes are dense in lutein, which is great for your heart and eyes.”

Foods high in fiber help lower cholesterol. And for those seniors experiencing a decrease in appetites (a subject that has been addressed here in an earlier blog post), nuts and seeds are a good way of boosting calorific intake in a heart-healthy way.

Remember: take it slowly and make sure you don’t get caught in the trap of making too many huge changes too quickly – because that is a surefire way to not make any changes at all.