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Heart-Healthy Foods 

The concept that particular foods promote healthier hearts is not new. It is a fact that a well-balanced nutritional diet contributes to good health throughout a lifetime. For many people,  the risk of diseases such as Type II diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and coronary artery issues may be reduced by consuming healthy diets. While it is important to begin healthy eating habits early in life, it can be just as vital to good health when healthy eating practices are followed in later years. The effects of some illnesses can be controlled and perhaps averted by practicing good nutritional habits.

Eating well is especially important for seniors who become more susceptible over time to the effects from aging and symptoms of illnesses that afflict the elderly. Seniors often battle loss of appetite, challenges in cooking healthy foods for one, and other health-related obstacles. These challenges affect their overall health and wellbeing which allows them to continue living independent lives in their own homes. For these reasons, it is critical seniors consume healthy foods and snacks that promote good health. A doctor should be consulted before making any diet changes, 

With these challenges in mind, Comfort Keepers® has researched what experts advise are the top 10 best foods for health. Many of these foods take little or no time to prepare and can be added to existing diets to add nutritional components that promote better heart health.

  1. Berries and grapes: While blueberries are a number one choice because they contain high levels of antioxidants, other berries such as raspberries, strawberries and even red grapes are beneficial. Add a handful of berries to your morning cereal, or munch on grapes for a healthy snack.
  2. Fish: Salmon, mackerel and tuna are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Experts advise having fish at least twice a week for maximum benefits.
  3. Whole grains: Choose breads, cereals, oatmeal, pasta and even snack crackers made of whole grains to reduce risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.
  4. Soy: Daily servings of soybeans like edamame, tofu, soy milk and yogurt are excellent sources of soy protein, linked to reduced risks of cardiovascular diseases, weight loss, and some types of cancers.
  5. Nuts: Almonds, walnuts and pecans as daily snacks can reduce the risk of blood clots and may facilitate healthy arterial lining.
  6. Olive oil: Olive oil contains a healthy type of fat that, when consumed in moderation, may help reduce risk of heart disease and promotes lower cholesterol levels. 
  7. Beans and lentils: Packed with protein, beans and lentils also contain levels of magnesium, iron and potassium that can support muscle and organ function, blood flow, and healthy bones. Choices of beans include chickpeas, kidney beans and black beans, all of which can be added to salads or soups. Red and green lentils are also excellent choices to add in soups.
  8. Fruits and vegetables: Think color. Dark leafy green, deep reds, yellows and oranges found in spinach, cooked tomatoes, squash and oranges are some choices. Daily intake of these foods has been linked to lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, and possible decreased risk of some cancers, along with lowered risk of eye diseases and digestive issues.
  9. Yogurt: Yogurt containing live and active cultures is considered a probiotic by scientists. Research shows probiotics are connected with lowering some risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 
  10. Tea and coffee: Flavonoids found in both may reduce heart disease. Studies found that those who drink 3-6 cups of green and black tea or 2-4 cups of coffee a day are at lower risk for heart disease. However, go easy on the sugar added to these beverages to avoid complications sugar may cause!

Good heart health does not depend on food alone. Physical exercise, not smoking and other factors are crucial to maintain healthy heart function. Being aware of bodily changes during the aging process plays a large part in maintaining overall good health. Seniors should also visit their doctors regularly to ensure early detection of any issue that may involve the heart. 

References:
Zelman, Kathleen M., MPH, RD, LD. 5 heart healthy foods. Retrieved on December 16, 2001 from webmd.com/heart-disease/features/5-heart-healthy-foods.
Mayo Clinic (2011). Heart healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease. Retrieved on December 16, 2011 from mayoclinic.com/health/heart-healthy-diet/NU00196.
Zelman, Kathleen, M., MPH, RD, LD. Top 10 heart healthy foods. Retrieved on December 16, 2011 from webmd.com/diet/features/top-10-heart-healthy-foods.
Mayo Clinic (2011). Whole grains: hearty options for a healthy diet. Retrieved on December 16, 2011 from mayoclinic.com/health/whole-grains/NU00204.
Mayo Clinic (2011). Nuts and your heart: eating nuts for heart health. Retrieved on December 16, 2011 from mayoclinic.com/health/nuts/HB00085.
Mayo Clinic (2011). Olive oil: what are the health benefits? Retrieved on December 16, 2011 from mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/AN01037.
Harvard School of Public Health. The nutrition source - vegetables and fruits. Retrieved on December 16, 2011 from hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/.
Oprah.com (2005). Dr. Perricone's number 10 superfood: yogurt and kelfer. Retrieved on December 17, 2011 from oprah.com/health/Yogurt-and-Kefir-Dr-Perricones-No-10-Superfood.
Boyles, Salynn. WebMd (2010). Tea, coffee drinkers have lower heart risk. Retrieved on December 17, 2011 from webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20100618/tea-coffee-drinkers-have-lower-heart-risk
Cespedes, Angela. Livestrong.com (2011). What are the benefits of eating beans and lentils? Retrieved on December 17, 2011 from livestrong.com/article/479593-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-beans-lentils/.

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