Can Nuts Protect Senior Heart Health?

nuts and senior heart health

As we get older, many of us start making changes to keep ourselves healthy, safe, and independent. In addition to making some important decisions concerning safety at home, we might start looking into senior alert systems, exercises that work best for an aging body, and the diets that can boost heart health and even cognitive function.

When your cardiovascular health is at stake, there are many diets that can help. One of the most common and highly recommended is the Mediterranean Diet, which is loaded with heart-healthy ingredients. Among those ingredients are nuts.

Nuts are little powerhouses of goodness, filled with nutrients, bioactive compounds, and healthy fats. In fact, they are so powerful that a new study has found that a higher consumption of nuts is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The journal Nutrients reported that those who consume certain nuts as part of their daily diet might have:

·        A 19% - 25% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality

·        A 24% - 27% lower risk of coronary artery disease

·        An 18% lower risk of strokes

·        A 15% lower risk of atrial fibrillation

·        A 19% lower risk of total mortality1

Given the substantial evidence that nuts really do a body good, it’s time to talk about what exactly it is that they do for you and how to get the right nuts into your diet.

Why Nuts are Good for Senior Health

According to the Mayo Clinic, eating the right nuts can help your body in a wide variety of ways.2 However, you must be careful to keep the portions limited to the recommended daily allowance. That’s because nuts can be very high in calories and fat, and since they are such a convenient snack, it’s easy to go overboard very quickly.

Assuming you’re eating the proper portions, what can you expect nuts to do for you?

·        Lower levels of inflammation that can help lower your risk of heart disease and improve the health of your arteries.

·        Those lower levels of inflammation can also lower your risk of diabetes.

·        Nuts can lower the risk of high blood pressure and blood clots. That in turn lowers your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events.

·        If you do have heart disease, nuts in your diet might help you live longer.

·        Nuts might lower your unhealthy cholesterol levels (the LDL or “bad” type) as well as lower your triglycerides. High cholesterol can clog your arteries and make your heart work harder than it should.

But exactly how do nuts help your body so much? Let’s talk about what’s in these tiny nutritional powerhouses.

The Nutritional Content of Nuts

It might seem like nuts can’t provide much nutrition – after all, some of them are quite tiny, and a small serving size makes it even more surprising that you can get so much protein, fiber, and fatty acids in your diet through them. But these little morsels are loaded with good things, such as:

Unsaturated fats. While most diets make it seem as though fats are evil, there are actually only certain fats you should avoid. Your body needs unsaturated fats, in moderation, to stay healthy and strong. These include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which are both found in nuts. These fats actually lower cholesterol levels.

Fiber. Not only does fiber help lower cholesterol levels, but it also makes you feel full for longer. That means that you eat less, which of course is great for weight loss. Fiber offers the bonus of helping your digestive system stay healthy.

Omega-3 fatty acids. You often hear about these in different types of fish, but did you know that nuts are a strong source of Omega-3s? According to WebMD, these do great things for your body, as they are a part of the structure of every cell. They can keep your blood vessels healthy and thus reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. They boost your immune system. They lower triglyceride levels and help your eyes stay healthy.3

Plant sterols. This is a substance that lowers cholesterol. Most of the time, you get them from foods that have been fortified with them, such as orange juice. But you can find them naturally in nuts. Plant sterols work by competing with the body’s cholesterol for absorption by the gut; by doing that, plant sterols can block the body’s cholesterol from being absorbed, which naturally lowers your levels.

A wealth of minerals. Nuts contain a wide variety of minerals your body needs to stay healthy, including copper, magnesium, selenium, and potassium. These nutrients protect against coronary artery disease, play a critical role in thyroid health, protect the cells from infection and oxidative damage, and support normal blood pressure. Potassium is well-known as an integral part of muscle health, including the heart muscle.

The Nuts You Should Eat for Senior Heart Health

Though most of the fats found in nuts are healthy for you, they do still add up in the form of calories. Therefore, moderation is key. About four to six servings of nuts every week is a good addition to a healthy diet for older adults. Always choose nuts that are raw, unsalted, or have been dry-roasted. One serving is the equivalent of a small handful; if you want to get technical, measure out 1.5 ounces of nuts to see exactly how much you should be consuming.

Which nuts should seniors eat?

·        Almonds. Rich in protein, carbs, and fiber, almonds contain about 45% of the vitamin E you need to consume each day. They protect the cells against oxidative damage, and studies have found that they can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

·        Pistachios. A favorite since at least 6000 BC, these little green delights are lower in calories than many other nuts but have more carbs. They are loaded with plant compounds that are good for your heart. Studies have shown that not only can pistachios contribute to weight loss as part of a balanced diet, they also lower blood pressure.

·        Walnuts. These nuts are high in good fats and omega-3, but they also contain 50% of your daily intake of copper, as well as 42% of the manganese you need. Copper aids in blood vessel development, and manganese helps your blood clot properly, both of which help you avoid strokes and heart attacks.

·        Cashews. These nuts bring the nutrients in a big way, as they are filled with vitamin K, protein, manganese, and magnesium. Put these all together and you get lowered triglyceride levels, reductions in blood pressure, and a boost for bone health – perfect for those worried about osteoporosis and falls. (Why not have a handful of cashews right now as you search for the personal button alarm or medical alert system that is best for you?)

·        Pecans. These are popular nuts often included in pies, cakes, and much more. They can provide plenty of zinc and B vitamins. As with many other nuts, they lower triglyceride levels and play a role in the “bad” cholesterol your body can absorb, which naturally lowers your levels. They also help with growth and development of cells, which can help fight wounds and infections.

·        Macadamia. These nuts have lower amounts of carbs, which make them great for low-carb dieters, and they also have 28% of your daily recommendation of thiamine, which helps your body handle the metabolism of fats and protein. They can also lower blood sugar levels, which can directly affect the health of your heart and vascular system.

·        Brazil nuts. These must be limited in their consumption, as experts recommend eating no more than five of them per day. Why? Too much can lead to selenium poisoning. Though selenium is essential for DNA synthesis and healthier cells, one serving of Brazil nuts contains a whopping 989% of the daily recommended allowance. These nuts also have anti-inflammatory effects, which can improve vascular health.

·        Hazelnuts. If you’re looking for plant sterols that help improve heart health, you can find them in hazelnuts. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and are loaded with manganese and a good amount of vitamin E. All of these things help improve your heart’s function and strength.

·        Peanuts. Finally, peanuts are not actually nuts (they are legumes), which is why they are sometimes omitted from lists like this one. They contain plant sterols, a good amount of protein, and are high in a variety of B vitamins. Peanuts might lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, but keep in mind that we’re talking about the raw, unsalted nuts themselves – not the delicious peanut butter made from those nuts!

Adding more nuts into your diet can be an incredibly healthy move, especially if you are mindful of the serving size and choose the nuts that contain the nutrients you need most. As we get older, a balanced diet becomes even more important. Not only does heart health become more of a concern as we age, so do other potential problems, such as cognitive decline, the development of some types of arthritis, wear and tear on the joints, and osteoporosis.

A medical alert necklace, pendant, or wristband can be a true life-saver if you have any medical emergency. As we get older, the risk of falls goes up, and the odds of being injured by that fall goes up, too. Senior safety and security are critical to remaining independent. A personal emergency button alarm right there at your fingertips frees your mind to focus on the other things that you need to think about – such as just how many hazelnuts are in one serving and making good banana bread with extra walnuts for a healthier heart! Here’s to your heart health!