Eating Better for a Stronger Heart

Get the most out of life by making better choices.

February is American Heart Month, which makes it a great time to talk about cardiovascular health. Keeping your heart healthy is a good thing for all ages, but it’s especially important for seniors. Physical activity is one of the best ways to ward off artery damage caused by high cholesterol. Eating a wholesome, nutritious diet is also crucial to reducing blood high pressure. Whether you’re looking to just stay healthy or make major lifestyle changes, a Life Plan Community like Blue Skies of Texas offers a comprehensive environment perfect for retirees to stay fit and active.

Exercise is the best medicine

Too much sitting can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Thanks to modern conveniences, the average person’s life is much more sedentary than say, 20 years ago.  That’s why it’s even more important to monitor daily activity levels. Fitbit  and other “wearables” make it easy to track your steps and other body metrics like heart rate and number of calories burned. Even those with dedicated fitness routines are often surprised by how little activity they get otherwise throughout their day.

The best kind of exercise for heart health is aerobic activity which is any type of workout that gets your heart rate up and increases the intake of oxygen. Running, biking, and swimming are excellent ways to break a sweat without straining yourself. Not only does it lower blood pressure, but aerobic exercise can be good for mental health. Workout classes help create new social connections and they also release endorphins which leave participants feeling good.

At Blue Skies of Texas, we have a lot of variety to choose from when it comes to workout opportunities. If you like the guided approach of a workout class, there are popular water aerobics and group toning and workout classes in the fitness center. For those who prefer the solitude of mind-clearing, outdoor fitness, Blue Skies offers a wonderful backdrop for runners, cyclists and walkers. There are also resident walking clubs, running clubs and bicycling clubs. Some residents even compete in 5ks and marathons.

Little changes, big results

No matter how much you exercise, if you aren’t fueling your body with the right nutrients, you’ll have a hard time achieving your fitness goals. That doesn’t mean giving up your favorite foods, it just means moderating and making little swaps for overall better health.

Certain foods are better for heart health than others. Starting your day with whole grains like oatmeal not only adds fiber but is also rich with nutrients that regulate blood pressure and lower cholesterol. You can have fun incorporating more whole grains by swapping out starchy rices and pastas with exciting alternatives like quinoa, barley or farro.

Rethinking your fats is another thing to consider when eating for heart health. Instead of butter, try cooking eggs in neutral oils like olive or canola oil. Alternative cooking oils like avocado and grapeseed are becoming more ubiquitous at even low-priced grocery chains like Aldi. However, it’s also important to pay attention to the amount of added fat in pantry staples like chips or crackers. Minimally processed nuts and seeds are perfect substitutes for snack cravings that won’t leave you wondering how much added salt and fat you’re consuming.

Selecting lean cuts of meat with less visible fat like chicken breasts and nutrient-rich fish are well-known ways to reduce cholesterol and promote better cardiovascular health. Legumes like beans, peas and lentils can provide a fat-free protein dish if you’re looking to avoid meat altogether. Opting for high protein, low carb meals helps keep excess weight off.

Keeping yourself active and eating right couldn’t be easier at Blue Skies of Texas. At our active adult community, we take wellness seriously. As a resident, you’ll be given a personalized assessment by our wellness director, fitness director and dietician upon moving in.

Consulting an expert

“I love to be with this age group. Anything I can do to help them makes my day,” Raghad Al Wuhaili, the nutrition care manager and dietician at Blue Skies of Texas says. Her job is to ensure that each resident gets the best diet for their preference and lifestyle. While she spends the majority of her time working with patients in health services, she spends time with every one when they move in.

“When we meet with a new resident, we’re already familiar with their medical background. Most of what I do is diabetes education, but a lot of folks come with a goal of either weight loss or better health in general,” Raghad explained.

“Food is the best part of the day, so I don’t believe in cutting a lot of things out that bring joy, but I stress doing everything in balance. Wellness is really about balance. So when someone comes to me with a goal, I look at what their goal is and decide if based on what their current lifestyle is, if it’s realistic. I find that major change is met with more resistance, so I ask them what they’re willing to give up and what they won’t budge on and we work out a plan based on that. I’m more interested in the consistency versus the overall result.”

Raghad also sits with residents at some of their meals and encourages them to make more conscientious choices when ordering from their favorite restaurants. Over time, they learn to make better choices for their specific goals.

At Blue Skies of Texas, you can lead an active, healthy life with support from our staff and programming. As a Life Plan Community, our goal is to help residents feel their best. See what we can achieve together by calling 866-553-5389.