Guide to a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Heart-shaped tomato on top of lettuce signifying heart health

February is well known for being American Heart Health Month, a yearly awareness campaign created to alert people of the risk factors for heart-related illnesses and encourage them to take steps in protecting their heart.

Optalis participates in various ways such as helping to educate adults on the disease and preventative ways to potentially reverse this troubling trend. Take control of your heart health with these helpful tips and tricks.

9 Tips for Improving and Maintaining Heart Health

  • Breakfast of champions. Don’t skip breakfast! Many people skip breakfast entirely or consume a sugary pastry or cereal, but a healthy breakfast helps us feel full longer. This lessens the chance of overeating later or reaching for quick, unhealthy comfort foods.
    Try — Starting the day with a bowl of oatmeal, this is a great source of protein and cholesterol-fighting fiber.
  • Mind your diet. A healthy diet is one of your best weapons to fight heart disease. Consume a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups; a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes as well as non-tropical vegetables oils. Limit saturated fats, trans fat, sodium, red meats, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. When consuming red meat, compare labels and select the leanest cuts available. Add in a variety of fish at least twice a week, if possible. Lastly, always watch your portion sizes!
    Try — Following Dash (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), research shows that people have fewer occurrences of heart disease when following this style plan.
  • Make sleep a priority. Adults often have bad sleep habits. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are more inclined to make bad food choices.
    Try — Averaging 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
  • Stay active. Find ways to stay active. Discuss senior-friendly forms of exercise with your physician. They can help explore potential options that might be more enjoyable and increase motivation.
    Try — Chair Yoga, an activity that can be performed in the privacy of your own living room or take a 20 minute walk with a significant other or friend every day.
  • Limit sodium. Put down the salt shaker. It isn’t uncommon for older adults to rely on convenience foods at meal times. But fast food, frozen dinners and even canned foods can be extremely high in sodium. Sodium and salt can both contribute to high blood pressure. Learn more about sodium and the unlikely places it might be sneaking into your diet, like ketchup, cereal and deli meats.
    Try — Low-sodium spices and fresh herbs when preparing foods, these are great cooking alternatives for taste and less sodium!
  • Schedule a physical. If you haven’t had a physical in the last year, we encourage you to schedule one. Medicare will cover one wellness visit each year. This gives your physician an opportunity to check blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar to spot any potential problems.
    Try — Keeping a scheduled wellness visit every year.
  • Kick the habit. Today’s generation of seniors were often smokers growing up. If you haven’t done so already, work on trying to quitting.
    Try — Consulting with your primary care physician, they will likely have suggestions to help.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. While some experts say the Resveratrol in a glass of red wine can be good for your heart, don’t overdo it. Consuming too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
    Try — Limiting to one drink per day and staying properly hydrated.
  • Drink green tea. Some experts believe the antioxidants in green tea help keep your arteries flexible which may help to prevent plaque from building up.
    Try — Consuming one glass of green tea sweetened with honey every day.


Utilize the Nutrition Facts Label to Make Healthier Choices

1. Start with the serving information.
Allows proper calculation of consumption for packages containing more than one serving.
– Size of the serving
– How Many servings are included

2. Check Total Calories.
Know how many calories you are consuming when eating a portion or the whole package. This number is typically based on the daily recommended intake of 2,000.  *Suggested calorie intake varies by age, weight, level of physical activity and other health factors. Check with your Primary Care Physician to confirm your ideal daily caloric intake.

3. Limit Certain Nutrients
Compare labels to choose options with lower:
– Added Sugars
– Sodium
– Saturated Fats
– Trans Fat

4. Get Enough of Beneficial Nutrients
Eat foods with nutrients your body needs:
– Calcium
– Choline
– Dietary Fiber
– Iron
– Magnesium
– Potassium
– Vitamins A, C, D & E

5. Understand % Daily Value
% Daily Value (DV), tells the % of each nutrient in a single serving in relation to the daily recommended amount.
–   In order to consume less of a nutrient (sodium or saturated fat), choose foods with lower % DV, 5% or less.
–  In order to consume more of a nutrient (fiber or potassium), choose foods with a higher % DV, 20% or more.

Additional Tips

Maintaining a daily journal of food consumption throughout the day, as well as any exercise completed, may help you stay on track.

Visit the Getting Healthy section of the American Heart Association’s website. They have helpful resources ranging from nutrition to physical activity and smoking cessation.