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Eating Right Cholesterol for Senior Citizens

According to the Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, the number of men and women reaching 65 or older increased over 11 percent between 1997 and 2007. Thirty-nine percent of them reported having very good to excellent health, so they must be doing something right when it comes to managing their health. The fact is, with a few minor exceptions, seniors need to adhere to the same heart healthy diet of their younger counterparts--eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber and drink plenty of water.

Heart Healty Diet
Whether you are still in college or already in your golden years, we all need to be concerned with one common health issue: the advancement of coronary artery disease. Cholesterol and low density lipoproteins begin to accumulate on the inside of your coronary arteries as early as your twenties. How quickly it advances depends on your diet, lifestyle and activity choices. One good resource at any age is the USDA Food Pyramid. The food pyramid divides all foods into six major categories: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans and oils. By clicking on each leg of the pyramid, you'll get valuable information about what foods are contained in each of the groups and how many servings of each group you should eat per day.

Digestion Changes With Age
As you enter middle age, a number of physiological changes occur that directly impact your body and how you eat. If you are suddenly on your own due to the loss of a partner, you are often more likely to eat foods that are faster and easier to prepare that are higher in cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium than foods that are better for you. But not all of them are the same. Look for higher quality products that are lower in saturated and trans fats and higher in fiber. As you age, you tend to lose your sense of taste and smell, so you may tend to eat less, foregoing the important vitamins and minerals you need. In general, saliva and stomach acid also decreases, making it more difficult to process Vitamins B12, B6 and folic acid that are important in maintaining mental alertness, memory and circulation.

Factors Affecting Cholesterol
As you age, activity becomes more difficult and adherence is likely to decline. Like our younger counterparts, that means a reduction in high density lipoproteins (HDL) or the good type of cholesterol and an increase in low density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad type of cholesterol increase, ultimately raising your risk for heart disease. One way to counter this trend is by taking the same approach as you did when you were younger: reserve time each day for a 30-minute walk or swim and stick to it. If there is an exercise group in your neighborhood, join it.

General Guidelines
In addition to the standard healthy heart guidelines, add a few foods expressly designed for seniors. Reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. Sodium contributes to fluid retention and raises blood pressure. Eat more foods with calcium and Vitamin D for improved bone health. Many dairy products are good sources for both. Add foods that are rich in fiber to prevent constipation, reduce LDL cholesterol and lower your risk for colon cancer.

Depending on your finances, there are a number of services that can help you maintain a low cholesterol diet as you age. If you live alone, consider getting a roommate who can help with the shopping and food preparation. Look into some of the local home delivery or Meals on Wheels programs that will deliver low cholesterol meals to your home. Consider hiring a professional homemaker or chef who will come into your home once or twice a week to prepare a number of nutritious meals that you can re-heat throughout the week.

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