Maintaining the wellness of your heart is something people must do all year-round to ensure they have long, healthy lives. But as American Heart Health Month, February is a great time of year to call attention to this essential organ. Cardiovascular disease is a widespread condition that can lead to heart attack and stroke, and it's the leading cause of death for males and females in the U.S. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, it's the cause of morbidity for 25 percent of the American population. Your risk of developing this condition increases as you get older, which is why it's especially important to keep up your cardiovascular health as a senior. Consider integrating some of these eating tips into your lifestyle to keep your ticker in good working order:
Limit your salt
Salt helps keep your bodily fluids balanced and is necessary for your wellness; however, too much can be bad for you. An excess of sodium in your diet can lead to high blood pressure – it causes your body to store excess fluids, which strains the heart. Hypertension is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attack as well as other debilitating conditions, such as kidney disease, osteoporosis and stomach cancer. Unfortunately, most Americans eat too much salt. For that reason, it's important to make sure you incorporate a healthy amount of sodium into your diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that people consume no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, though adults age 51 and older should have less than 1,500 milligrams per day. Choosing not to sprinkle salt onto your food is one way to reduce your intake, but there's more to it than that. Be sure to check the nutritional information on the packaged foods you eat and select options that are low-sodium.
Reduce your saturated and trans fats
According to the National Institutes of Health, there is a strong link between coronary heart disease and the intake of saturated and trans fatty acids. Americans consume far too much of these fats – the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that they make up no more than 10 percent of your caloric intake each day. To cut down and improve your wellness, you can select lean meats over fatty ones. Chicken breast, pork tenderloin and fish are good options. You may also want to stick to dairy products that are low in fat, such as skim milk. Keep in mind that processed foods and baked goods also tend to contain high concentrations of trans fats.
Eat at home
Dining out is an easy way to throw off your healthy diet without even realizing it. Even choosing low-fat options at a restaurant can be risky, because you can never be entirely certain how much fat, salt and other heart-negative ingredients your food contains. Eating at home allows you greater control over what you eat and how your meal is prepared, and it can help improve your overall wellness. Incorporate plenty of vegetables and fruits as well as whole grains into your meals, and try out new ways of cooking your food, like baking as opposed to frying. Get creative with the spices – seasoning is a great way to add flavor without increasing calories, but be wary of using too much salt.
Avoid fad diets
It can be easy to be sucked in by the hype of a fad diet. The promises of quick and easy weight loss may be tempting, but the benefits are typically short-term. People often gain back the pounds they've lost after returning to their normal eating habits, and some even put on more than they lost. Such fluctuations in weight can be taxing on the heart and may lead to stroke and other deadly conditions.