Heart-healthy diet helps seniors, research shows

Q: Mom has been on medications for a mild heart attack since 2010. She’s 80, lives alone, still eats junk food and expects the medications alone to prevent any potential heart problems. I told her I didn’t think it worked that way with food. I think she needs to make an effort to walk more, too. Medication shouldn’t be the only line of defense for heart problems, right?

A: Your mother should know that a recent study of seniors with cardiovascular disease has found those who ate a heart-healthy diet significantly decreased their chances of future cardiovascular events. And their risk of dying from such an event was reduced by 35 percent.

“At times, patients don’t think they need to follow a healthy diet since their medications have already lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol. That is wrong,” said Dr. Mahshid Dehghan, Ph.D., study author and a nutritionist at the Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. “Dietary modification has benefits in addition to those seen with aspirin, angiotensin modulators, lipid-lowering agents and beta blockers.”

The study report was published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

A diet rich in vegetables and fruits with a higher ratio of fish to meats appeared to be more beneficial for preventing heart disease than for preventing cancer, fractures or injury. “Physicians should advise their high-risk patients to improve their diet and eat more vegetables, fruits, grains and fish,” Dr. Dehghan said. “This could substantially reduce cardiovascular recurrence beyond drug therapy alone and save lives globally.”

Perhaps your mother would benefit from the assistance of her local Home Instead Senior Care office with healthy meals and other chores around the house. A local Home Instead CAREGiverSM could help with meal preparation and medication reminders in addition to light housekeeping, transportation and errands. One valued service is companionship. A CAREGiver would be available to take walks with your mom and encourage her to participate in doctor-recommended exercise.

And those positive changes could lead to a healthier heart.

For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact DeLauter at 866-522-6533 or visit

DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Lewisburg, which serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, Clinton, Montour and Columbia counties.