4 Easy Kitchen Swaps to Improve Heart Health

Posted: 1/31/2019 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare

Cardiovascular health is more important than ever for seniors across the United States. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the cause of 1 in 3 deaths across the United States. That’s more than 800,000 deaths per year!

Although genetics can play a role in determining whether your loved one has a tendency toward cardiovascular disease, in many instances, complications can be prevented through changes to lifestyle.

Heart health starts in the kitchen.

Combined with exercise, the food we consume has an enormous impact on our cardiovascular risk. Thankfully, a few simple changes can make a profound impact on the risk of heart disease, and can keep your senior loved one’s heart beating strong for years to come. (Note: Always consult with your doctor regarding any changes to your loved one’s diet, as they may impact their medications.)

Start with these easy kitchen swaps to promote heart health:

1. Swap salt-laden spices and seasonings for their no salt added counterparts.

Many spices and seasonings contain “hidden” salt that you may not expect. Always check labels to be sure -- companies are required to disclose whether salt is an ingredient and if so, how much sodium is contained in a serving. Another warning; however, is to look at the serving size. Many spices consider ⅛ or ¼ of a teaspoon one serving, despite the fact that many recipes call for four or even eight servings! The sodium can add up quickly and your senior loved one’s health is on the line.

Salt free spices and spice combinations are increasingly popular options at supermarkets across the country. Brand’s like Mrs. Dash, and even store brands, offer a range of flavors to keep Mom or Dad’s food tasty -- without posing a risk to heart health.

2. Toss refined grains and stock your shelves with whole grain alternatives.

Processed grains are stripped of their most nutritive elements -- particularly, their fiber, in order to hasten cooking and make preparation easier. Unfortunately, when grains are processed and refined, they lose much of their heart protection and healthy elements as well.

Whole grains are excellent sources of dietary fiber, which can help lower your cholesterol and lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes.  

Reading labels is essential to finding foods that are truly heart healthy and include more than slick marketing. Phrases like “whole grain” aren’t typically regulated, so read the ingredients to look for terms like “whole wheat,” “whole grain [NAME OF GRAIN].” If you see terms like “enriched” or simply “wheat,” those are likely refined.

3. Remove any sugary beverages and choose water or naturally flavored sparkling water instead.

We know soda and other sugary beverages are bad for us, but they taste so good, they can be hard to give up. In fact, the sugar and caffeine in those beverages are highly addictive, making it difficult to break the consumption cycle, particularly for seniors who have been consuming those beverages for decades.

Although the risk of type 2 diabetes or diabetes from sugary beverages may seem obvious, these sugar bombs also increase your risk for metabolic conditions and heart disease.

Get rid of any sugary beverages in your loved one’s kitchen and instead, encourage drinking good ole H20. Sweetening water naturally with berries, pineapple and other fruit combinations is an excellent way to enhance the flavor of water, and also its health benefit. As another alternative, sparkling water is emerging as a better choice for seniors and others who prefer a cold, sparkling beverage. Be sure to check the label to ensure any sparkling water beverages contain “natural flavors” only, and not artificial sweeteners or other sugar alternatives that can have similar effects on heart health.  

4. Exchange pre-packaged processed snacks for easy-to-eat fresh fruit options.

Pre-packaged, processed snacks like cookies and crackers are typically laden with fat, salt and sugar to tantalize your taste buds. Unfortunately, those three elements are major contributors to heart disease.
Protect Mom or Dad by swapping out those unhealthy snacks for easy-to-grab, tasty snacks provided by nature: Fruit and vegetables!

Bananas are one of nature’s easiest, ready-made snacks -- simply peel and eat! Loaded with heart healthy potassium, they are a terrific option for cardiovascular health. Bananas are literally the tip of the iceberg as far as easy-to-consume fruits and vegetables.

For seniors who are unable to chop or prepare their own produce, pre-sliced apples and other prepared produce can make it easy to stock ready-to-eat options regardless of Mom or Dad’s ability to prep. Supermarkets across the country are offering more varieties of pre-washed and -chopped produce that can be consumed immediately -- perfect for a senior loved one who wants a quick, afternoon snack.

We are committed to protecting your loved ones from heart disease.

If Mom or Dad is suffering from heart disease or simply needs some extra help getting through the day, the caring staff at Interim HealthCare is here to help. Our guide to coronary artery (heart) disease can provide some additional resources to help you at home, or you can contact your nearest Interim HealthCare franchise for more information on our home care services.