Foods for Heart Health
The risk of developing heart disease increases as a person gets older. The good news for seniors is that there are several lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of this serious disease. One of the most important factors is eating a healthy diet. Reducing consumption of cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, leading to a reduced risk of coronary artery disease. Eating the right foods also makes a difference, as some foods contain substances that protect the heart and strengthen the blood vessels.
Top 5 Heart Healthy Foods
Five of the best foods for heart health are salmon, oatmeal, walnuts, blueberries, and kidney beans.
- Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, substances that reduce inflammation. Since inflammation damages the heart and blood vessels, consuming omega-3 fatty acids is just one way to reduce heart disease risk. Salmon also contains substances that protect the joints and eyes.
- Oatmeal belongs on this list because of its high fiber content. Oatmeal contains a type of fiber called beta-glucan, which has a significant effect on cholesterol levels. The George Mateljan Foundation reports that eating just one bowl of oatmeal a day may reduce cholesterol by 8 to 23 percent.
- Walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, making them ideal for a heart-healthy diet. Consuming these nuts, along with other heart-healthy foods, may reduce LDL cholesterol levels, improve the function of the cells in the blood vessels, and reduce the risk of blood clots.Walnuts also contain a beneficial form of vitamin E and substances called phenols, which may reduce the risk of cancer.
- Blueberries are packed with health benefits and have few calories, so they are ideal for anyone who wants better heart health. Blueberries contain a significant amount of fiber, which helps improve cholesterol levels. One of the compounds found in blueberries may also prevent plaque from building up in the arteries. Reduced plaque levels lead to a reduced risk of stroke and heart attack.
Further Research On These Wonderfoods
- Study Shows the Benefits of Eating Fish Outweigh the Risks: This article discusses the results of a study conducted to determine if the health benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks. The researchers found that fish consumption has a significant impact on cardiovascular health.
- 10 Best Foods for Your Heart: Oatmeal: This article explains that oatmeal is good for the heart because it can help reduce cholesterol levels and prevent the arteries from becoming clogged with plaque.
- Walnuts Good for Heart, High Cholesterol: This resource discusses the use of walnuts to improve cholesterol levels.
- Inside Blueberries, a Cholesterol Buster: This article explains which chemicals found in blueberries help protect the heart.
Heart Healthy Properties
Heart-healthy foods typically contain at least one of the following substances: fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, antioxidants, or phytoestrogens. When someone consumes a food that contains fiber, fiber binds with the cholesterol before the body can absorb it. This leads to reduced cholesterol levels in the blood. Fiber also increases the feeling of fullness after a meal, which may help prevent people from consuming unhealthy snacks.
The body needs omega-3 fatty acids to maintain some of its basic functions, but unlike many other substances, the body is not able to make these fatty acids by itself. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids in food is essential for good health. In addition to the heart health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, these substances also play an important role in brain function.
Potassium is a mineral found in foods like broccoli, eggplant, cantaloupe, spinach, carrots, papaya, and green beans. This mineral helps reduce blood pressure by minimizing the effects of sodium on the heart. Lower blood pressure reduces the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, and other serious medical problems.
Antioxidants are substances that combat the effects of free radicals on the cells. Free radicals form when oxygen reacts with other substances in the body. These free radicals can damage the cells of the heart, increasing the risk of heart disease. Phytoestrogens reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels in the blood. These compounds may also reduce the risk of some types of tumors.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: This article from the University of Maryland Medical Center explains the importance of consuming omega-3 fatty acids for reducing inflammation and maintaining good heart health.
- Potassium and High Blood Pressure: The American Heart Association explains the importance of consuming potassium for controlling blood pressure and keeping the heart healthy.
- Antioxidants and Cardiovascular Disease: This article explains how antioxidants can reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Soy and Phytoestrogens: This resource discusses the importance of phytoestrogens in improving heart health.
Why is Heart Health Important?
Heart health is very important because the heart and blood vessels affect every other part of the body. The heart pumps blood to all parts of the body, delivering needed oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and organs. Because the organs of the body rely on normal circulation, any problem with the heart can increase the risk of other medical problems.
For example, kidney disease sometimes develops in those who have heart disease because the kidneys do not receive enough blood. This lack of blood flow causes irreversible damage and may impair kidney function. Having a strong heart is essential for almost every function. When the heart is weak, it is difficult to walk or find the energy to do simple tasks. Keeping the heart healthy can improve a person’s quality of life significantly.
- What is the Relationship Between Heart Disease and Kidney Disease?: Dr. George Aronoff explains the relationship between heart disease and kidney disease. Good heart health is important for people with kidney disease because it can reduce the risk of complications.
- Hypertension: This article discusses the importance of controlling blood pressure and lists some of the possible complications for those with uncontrolled blood pressure.
- Heart Health and Stroke: This article discusses how heart health affects the risk of stroke. People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease have an increased risk of stroke.
- Heart Disease: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list the shocking statistics about heart disease in the United States.
- Heart Disease and Quality of Life: This article stresses the importance of good heart health by explaining how heart problems can result in poor quality of life for older people.
Heart Health & Heart Disease
Maintaining good heart health clearly decreases the risk of heart disease. One important factor in heart health is cholesterol levels. There are two types of cholesterol that affect the cardiovascular system. High-density lipoprotein, known as the “good cholesterol,” actually reduces the risk of heart disease. Scientists believe that HDL cholesterol sweeps the bad cholesterol out of the blood vessels. Low-density lipoprotein is known as the “bad cholesterol.” This type of cholesterol can build up in the arteries and lead to blockages.
Blood pressure is another important factor in reducing the risk for heart disease. High blood pressure forces the heart to work harder to deliver oxygen to other parts of the body. This can damage the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease. When someone eats a healthy diet and gets regular exercise, the heart does not have to work as hard to do its job. This decreases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease.
- High Cholesterol and Heart Failure (PDF): This resource explains how high cholesterol levels increase the risk for heart disease and heart failure.
- High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease: This article explains how uncontrolled blood pressure can damage the blood vessels and increase the risk for heart disease.
- Heart Disease Risk: This resource lists the factors that affect heart disease risk and explains how controlling some of these factors can prevent heart problems.
- Heart Disease Risk Calculator: This tool allows users to assess their potential risk for developing heart disease based on several heart health factors such as high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol levels.
- Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors: The World Heart Federation highlights the importance of making lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease.
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