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Keeping a Healthy Heart

Now that we have made it through the most romantic day of the year, we have compiled some ideas, outside of flowers and fancy dinner with your significant other, to care for your heart.

heart health for seniors


Heart Health as We Age

As we age, the risk of heart disease can increase due to a condition known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when the arteries begin to narrow from plaque buildup in the arterial walls, disrupting blood flow throughout the body. If blood flow stops altogether, from a blood clot, the outcome could include a heart attack or stroke.

While unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as lack of physical activity and/or smoking, can trigger atherosclerosis, poor diet can also be a cause. Foods high in salt and fat can result in high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels – all of which are factors that can increase the risk of atherosclerosis (and heart disease) significantly.

Seniors who configure their diets to include healthy foods can make a profound impact on the health of their hearts. In fact, it’s been reported that 70% of heart disease can be prevented with correct nutrition. Here are some of the foods that seniors – under proper supervision from a physician and/or dietitian – can incorporate into their diet to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Foods that Can Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

· Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries are all beneficial when it comes to your heart, due primarily to their plentiful supply of antioxidants – which reduce damage caused by free radicals in the body.

· Oranges: The potassium found in oranges helps to maintain blood pressure, while the pectin (a high source of water-soluble fiber found in the pith and pulp) collects the cholesterol from ingested food, reducing absorption. Additionally, recent research indicates that citrus pectin aids in neutralizing galectin-3, a protein that damages heart tissue.

· Apples: Comparing apples to oranges may not be such a bad idea after all, as the former also contains pectin. Its fiber content also aids in removing cholesterol. With all of its benefits together, daily apple consumption can reduce LDL cholesterol by 40%.

· Nuts: Although nuts have a high level of fat, it is primarily monounsaturated and helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Nuts also contain essential vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid, niacin, vitamin B, and vitamin E – all of which aid in helping the heart.

· Avocados: Similar to nuts, avocados are full of monounsaturated fats that help to reduce LDL cholesterol. The one downside is that avocados contain a high number of calories, so it’s best to consume in moderation.

· Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids – often found in salmon, trout, and other cold water fish – work to simultaneously reduce triglycerides and raise HDL. Sardines, in particular, are said to provide the greatest number of Omega-3 fatty acids, compared to other cold-water fish. Note that the American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish at least twice a week.

· Asparagus: Similar to berries and other fruits and vegetables, asparagus is full of free radical-neutralizing antioxidants. It’s also a great source of vitamins A, C, E, and K, fiber, and beta-carotene. Just be sure not to overcook or boil it for too long, as this can compromise the nutritional content.

· Oatmeal: Unprocessed oatmeal – free of added sugar – can reduce cholesterol due to its beta-glucan content. Try adding fresh berries to your oatmeal for flavor and added benefits.

· Red Wine: Resveratrol, an antioxidant-rich compound found in certain berries and grapes, is what makes red wine heart-healthy, but most health professionals advise drinking no more than one glass a day. Anything past that and one’s risk of heart and liver damage can increase.

· Dark Chocolate: The flavonoids found in cocoa – chocolate’s plant source – can reduce blood pressure, maintain blood flow, and relax the arteries. To get the most out of dark chocolate, choose a bar that is at least 70% cocoa. Be sure that cocoa is the first listed ingredient, as opposed to sugar.

Nutrition Along with a Healthy Lifestyle

One of the added benefits of choosing heart-healthy foods is that they supply other organs in the body with essential nutrients, adding to physical well-being. However, one should not rely solely on a heart-healthy diet in order to prevent heart disease.

In addition to taking steps to establish a daily exercise routine (including at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity – with permission from a doctor or physician), seniors should also monitor their cardiovascular health regularly by visiting a doctor or physician. Regular consultation with a health professional can provide further insights into how to prevent heart disease, but it may also help in detecting other issues early on. There can be many reasons seniors stop eating correctly, here is an article to some other potential nutrition concerns and ideas that can help.

Improving Heart Health with a Dog!

This just in from the American Heart Association in an Article January 30th: It's hard to believe, but America's favorite puppy wrangler used to live in a housing development that didn't allow pets.

"They lifted the ban a few years ago and all of a sudden everything changed," said Dan Schachner, a New York-based actor and official referee of Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl who fosters dogs for adoption. "People go outside more. They get more exercise. I know my neighbors better. The whole culture is more friendly."

Research over the years indicates dogs contribute to human heart health in various ways, from encouraging physical activity and fighting depression to lowering blood pressure and reducing isolation in older people. A meta-analysis published last year in the journal Circulation examined 70 years of studies and concluded dog owners were likely to live longer than their petless peers.

For the uninitiated, the Puppy Bowl has been a TV staple on Super Bowl Sunday since 2005. Adorable dogs from shelters around the country scamper around a model stadium with chew toys. A striped-shirted Schachner, the "rufferree," spouts pun-laden commentary about linebarkers, running barks and unnecessary ruffness.

Spoiler alert: They all get adopted. For canines and humans, it's win-win, and dog lovers don't need stacks of medical research to confirm that.

"You see how dogs change lives," said Sean Napoles, a sales executive in Plano, Texas, who trains puppies to become service dogs. "It's all about the bond people have with their dog." For the complete article click here.






American Heart Association. “Heart Attack Recovery FAQs”. Web. 2015

Cleveland Clinic. “Heart Attack Recovery”. Web. 2015. “Changes to Make in Your Life After a Heart Attack”. Web. 2015.

American Heart Association. (2013). Older Americans & cardiovascular diseases. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (October 29, 2014). Heart disease facts. Retrieved from

Cleveland Clinic. (December 2013). Vitamin D & heart disease. Retrieved from

Kim, S.M. and Han H. (2013). Evidence-based strategies to reduce readmission in patients with heart failure. Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 9(4), 224-232. Retrieved from

Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative. (June 2010). PRHI Readmission Briefs: Brief 1: Overview of six target chronic diseases. Retrieved from

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (February 2013). The revolving door: A report on U.S. hospital readmissions. Retrieved from Heart Association. “What is Cardiovascular Disease?” Web. 2016.

Prevention. “The 25 Best Foods for Your Heart” by Deborah Hastings. Web. 2013.

WebMD. “Top 11 Heart-Healthy Foods” by Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD. Web. 2016.

American Heart Association January 30th,


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