Printer Friendly

Surprising heart-healthy foods: add these choices to your diet and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in this country, but you can take steps to protect yourself. The first one lies in your kitchen.

"There are many everyday foods that provide excellent heart-health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol levels, improving heart function, increasing blood flow, and reducing inflammation," says Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, senior dietitian with the UCLA Medical Center.

The darker the food, the better. Dark-colored choices like deep green and bright orange are rich in heart-boosting phytonutrients, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and key minerals like potassium and magnesium.

Unfortunately, many seniors often neglect their nutrition or adopt poor eating habits as they age. "Older adults lose some of their sense of taste and smell, which makes meals less enjoyable," says Dr. Hunnes. "So they end up adding more sugar, salt, and fat to foods to improve the taste and, in doing so, increase their risk of many heart-related problems."

Another barrier is that cooking can become more of a chore, especially if you cook for only two people or just yourself. "Seniors want meals that are quick, easy, and simple," says Dr. Hunnes.

But the advantage of many heart-healthy foods is that they can be added to staple meals, or eaten on their own. Plus, you don't need high amounts to protect yourself against heart disease. "Instead of focusing on specific amounts, try to incorporate more of them into your daily diet," says Dr. Hunnes.

Here is a look at some of the top heart-healthy foods and tips on how to eat more of them.

Ground Flaxseed. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It also contains more than 100 times more lignans, a polyphenol and type of antioxidant, than any other plant food. Studies suggest that diets rich in flaxseed also keep plaque from being deposited in the arteries. One study of postmenopausal women found that those who consumed 30 grams of flaxseed a day, for three months, reduced their total cholesterol by 7 percent and LDL [bad) cholesterol by 10 percent.

Eat More: "Always use ground flaxseed as the body cannot properly digest the hull," says Dr. Hunnes. Mix it into oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, pancakes, and any baking recipe.

Black Beans. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that black beans have the highest antioxidant activity of all beans. Antioxidants neutralize cell-damaging free radicals, which protects against heart disease.

Eat More: Use black beans as a meat replacement in pasta sauce and in dishes like enchiladas and to accompany eggs at breakfast.

Sweet Potatoes. One cup of sweet potatoes supplies 950 mg of potassium. Potassium can protect your heart in several ways.

One study found potassium lowers systolic blood pressure (the top number) by eight points. Sweet potatoes are also rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, and studies have shown diets high in beta-carotene can reduce the risk of heart attacks.

* Eat More: Switch out your regular baked potatoes for sweet. Add cubes of sweet potato to soups or stews, stir pureed sweet potatoes into bread, muffin, or pancake recipes, or mix into oatmeal.

Dark Chocolate. Louisiana State University researchers found cocoa powder in dark chocolate, when digested in the stomach, releases anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit the heart.

* Eat More: Don't feel you have free reign to eat candy bars every day. "Keep those to one-half to 1 ounce a day, as you don't want the extra sugar and calories that come with it," says Dr. Hunnes. Instead, mix true dark chocolate cocoa powder into your yogurt, oatmeal, and even a warm cup of low-fat or almond milk.

Basil and Thyme. Basil is a good source of cholesterol-lowering phytosterols and magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health by helping blood vessels relax to improve blood flow. One study found basil lowered systolic blood pressure (top number) by 20 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) by 15 mmHg. Thyme can help lower triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while raising HDL (good) levels, suggests a 2014 study.

* Eat More: Use in place of salt and pepper to flavor meals. Dried herbs are more potent and concentrated than fresh, so you can use less. Salmon. Salmon is known for its heart benefits, but what makes it a surprising heart-healthy food is that it has some of the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Research has shown that omega-3s decrease risk of abnormal heartbeats, which can lead to sudden death. They also lower triglyceride levels (a type of fat in your blood), slow the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and help to reduce blood pressure.

* Eat More: The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fatty fish like salmon twice a week. (Other fish options include mackerel, sardines, and albacore tuna.) Opt for wild salmon over farmed, says Dr. Hunnes, as farmed can contain chemical additives from feed and contamination from runoff. Another choice is wild pink salmon in the can.


Some foods can interfere with the absorption of certain drugs or
increase your risk ol side effects. Other foods can offer support.
Here are some common medications and a list of what foods you should
avoid or increase. Check with your doctor before making any dietary
changes with regard to your prescription.

MEDICATION                       FOODS

DIURETICS: Help remove water,    Diuretics can cause potassium
sodium, and chloride to reduce   levels to drop, so you want to
swelling and excess fluid        increase your amount of high-
caused by medical problems       potassium foods. These include
such as heart or liver           bananas, oranges, spinach,
disease. Also can treat high     broccoli, asparagus,
blood pressure.                  cantaloupe, sweet potatoes,
                                 and  tomatoes.

Names: bumetanide, furosemide,
metolazone,  triamterene

ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION (ED)        Grapefruit and grapefruit
DRUGS:  Increase blood flow      juice can block ED drugs from
into the penis to encourage      leaving the body, which can
erections  during intercourse.   cause side effects such as low
                                 blood pressure, headache,
Names: sildenafil (Viagra[R]),   flushing, visual (color)
tadalafil (Cialis"),             disturbances, nasal
vardenafil (Levitra[ R])         congestion, dizziness,
                                 abdominal pain, and/or acid

ACE (angiotensin-converting      ACE inhibitors can increase
enzyme) INHIBITORS: Lower        the amount of potassium in
blood pressure and treat heart   your body, which can cause an
failure by relaxing blood        irregular or rapid heartbeat.
vessels, so blood flows more     Avoid large amounts of
smoothly and the heart can       potassium-rich foods such as
pump blood better.               oranges, spinach, broccoli,
                                 asparagus, cantaloupe, sweet
Names: captopril, enalapril,     potatoes, tomatoes, and salt
lisinopril, moexipril,           substitutes that contain
quinapril, ramipril              potassium.

LIPID-ALTERING AGENTS            Grapefruit and grapefruit
(statins): Lower production of   juice contain furanocoumarins,
LOL (bad) cholesterol and        a compound that slows statins'
triglycerides (fat in the        breakdown in the body and may
blood) and raise HDL (good)      trigger side effects such as
cholesterol, which reduces the   digestive issues, muscle
risk of heart attack and         aches, increased blood sugar,
stroke.                          liver damage, and kidney

Names: atorvastatin,
fluvastatin, lovastatin,
pravastatin, simvastatin,

ANTICOAGULANTS (blood            Vitamin K-rich foods reduce
thinners): Reduce the chance     the effect of warfarin and
of blood clots forming or        increase the risk of side
growing larger.                  effects like headaches and
                                 stomach pain, bleeding gums,
Name: warfarin                   excessive bruising, and blood
                                 in the urine. These foods
                                 include broccoli, cabbage,
                                 collard greens, spinach, kale,
                                 turnip greens, and Brussel
                                 sprouts. Also avoid
                                 cranberries, cranberry juice,
                                 and garlic.

                                 Calcium-rich foods like milk
TETRACYCLINE ANTIBIOTICS: Used   products and over-the-counter
to treat many different          antacids can reduce absorption
bacterial infections, such as    of the drug.
urinary tract infections,
gonorrhea, chlamydia, and

Names: doxycycline,

(MAOIs) Antidepressants-         Foods that contain high
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors:    amounts of tyramine can spike
Treat depression by balancing    blood pressure. These include
neurotransmitters in the         cheeses (American processed,
brain. MAOIs reduce the amount   cheddar, Colby, blue, Brie,
of monoamine oxidase, which      mozzarella, and Parmesan),
breaks down neurotransmitters.   yogurt, sour cream, beef or
                                 chicken liver, salami,
Names: phenelzine,               pepperoni, avocados, bananas,
tranylcypromine                  canned figs, dried fruits
                                 (raisins, prunes),
                                 raspberries, sauerkraut, soy
                                 beans, soy sauce, fava beans,
                                 and chocolate.
COPYRIGHT 2015 Belvoir Media Group, LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:MEDICATIONS
Publication:Healthy Years
Date:Mar 1, 2015
Previous Article:Ask the doctor: bedtime snacks ... meds and body temperature ... what is keratosis?
Next Article:Inability to balance on one leg may signal higher risk of stroke.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters