A healthy diet for heart attack patients forms a vital part of post-heart attack care. The cardiac diet emphasizes heart-healthy foods, which the heart attack patient must incorporate into his daily dietary routine. This article also emphasizes what foods you must avoid if you suffer from heart disease and why.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year about 735,000 Americans suffer from a heart attack.

Of these, 525,000 are people who have had a first heart attack and 210,000 are those who have suffered a second attack.

This demonstrates that the chances of a second heart attack are almost 30 percent.

This happens in those people who do not observe the rules, which a patient with a heart attack should follow.

  • Take your medication religiously
  • Follow the prescribed exercise program regularly
  • Avoid smoking and other unhealthy lifestyle habits
  • Last but not the least, stick to a healthy diet plan especially drafted for heart attack patients. Know what heart-healthy foods to eat and what to avoid after a heart attack.

The diet plan for any heart disease or post-heart surgery forms an important part of the heart attack treatment. Besides being nutritious, certain restrictions are necessary in order that the heart stays healthy and further damage is avoided.

The menu of the cardiac diet will, therefore, be devoid of those items, which

An unhealthy diet, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle are the three main causes of high cholesterol levels in the blood, especially bad cholesterol (LDL) levels.

High LDL levels cause atherosclerosis, which is among the main causes of heart attacks in men and women.

If you have not suffered a heart attack but harbor risk factors such as having a family history, you could do well to start following this diet plan in your everyday eating.

This diet is recommended even for those patients who have undergone heart surgery such as a cardiac bypass.

Healthy dietary tips to protect your heart

The dietary advice to maintain a healthy heart consists of foods that you must avoid and foods that you should incorporate into your daily menu.

After a heart attack, you should follow this diet permanently and in a regular fashion. It will go a long way to preventing complications and another attack.

Foods to avoid in heart disease

Avoid foods that contribute to the risk factors of a heart attack.

1. Restrict salt intake to 1 tsp per day. This will come from the food we eat and take no extra table salt. Salt contains sodium, which causes blood pressure to rise. High blood pressure is the No 1 contributing risk factor of a heart attack.

Some foods with naturally occurring sodium include celery, beets, and milk. Processed foods often have sodium added and should be avoided. They include salted snacks, canned soups, luncheon meats, and frozen dinners.

2. Restrict fat intake especially saturated fats as these cause the LDL cholesterol and triglycerides to rise.

High blood levels of these substances give rise to atherosclerosis, which causes narrowing and/or blockage of the arteries due to these lipids getting deposited on the inner walls of the arteries.

Narrowing or blockage of the lumen of the coronary arteries of the heart causes a heart attack.

Avoid saturated fats and trans fats present in foods like red meat, butter, duck, goose, steak, organ meats such as kidneys and liver, and prepared meats such as sausage, hot dogs, and other snack foods as they increase the cholesterol in the blood.

Avoid coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils. Choose oils that are high in monounsaturated fat such as olive and peanut oil. Another good option is choosing oils rich in polyunsaturated fat such as soybean, corn, and sunflower oils. Exercise moderation as these foods contain calories.

3. Restrict calorie intake. Obesity is another major risk factor, which contributes to a heart attack. High-calorie intake results in weight gain. It is of paramount importance that weight is maintained in order that the load on the heart to pump blood is not increased. Lose weight if you are overweight.

4. Restrict sugar intake so that diabetes can be avoided or controlled because diabetes is a major contributory factor to an attack —  no sweets, chocolates, cakes, and pastries.

Healthy foods for heart patients

Here is how you should plan a healthy diet for heart attack patients and incorporate heart-healthy foods and avoid those that are detrimental to heart health.

1.  Milk and milk products: Drink milk, preferably skim or 1% milk and use only cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk that is low-fat or non-fat.

Milk has a rich nutritional value and has tremendous health benefits. Milk and other dairy products are rich providers of protein, calcium, niacin, riboflavin (B- vitamins), and vitamins A and D.

2.  Whole wheat bread and cereals and whole grains only should be used. Whole wheat is preferred because it contains the germ and the bran of the wheat and the nutritional value is maintained.

Whole wheat is rich in vitamin B and C, iron and contains minerals like calcium, manganese, phosphorous, copper, and zinc. It is also rich in fiber.

Fiber is an important part of a heart attack diet because a meal rich in fiber gives a feeling of fullness in the stomach and prevents overeating and gaining extra weight.

It also helps prevent a heart attack and type 2 diabetes. It helps in the proper functioning of the digestive tract and cleaning of the bowels.

3. Eat brown rice and not white rice. Brown rice is rice that has not been processed. It scores over white rice because it retains the nutrients, which are lost in white rice during processing.

Brown rice, therefore, contains more than three times the fiber present in white rice. It is also rich in minerals like magnesium, manganese, and zinc.

4. Vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, sea vegetables, and potatoes must form a very important part of the diet. They are rich in fiber and should be eaten generously.

5. Fruits are another essential food in your everyday diet. All fruits are good and you should have a variety of them for more nutrition benefits. They are rich in fiber too.

Pomegranates are believed to reduce the risk of heart attack by 10 percent. Avocado is high in calories and should be avoided.

For a heart-healthy diet, you should eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

6. Legumes such as lentils, beans, and peas are a good source of proteins and they contain very low fats. Another good source of protein with low fat is soy.

6. White meat such as chicken (without skin) and fish should be preferred. Adults should eat no more than 5 to 6 cooked ounces of lean meat, chicken, and fish daily. One serving of these foods should be about the size of your palm.

Seafood with shells such as prawns contains high quantities of cholesterol and must be avoided. Only egg white should be eaten daily and limit egg yolks to four per week.

7. Alcohol: Though alcohol does not form part of any diet, it does require mention. If you have to drink it, consume it in moderation and that means, following limits of two pegs for men and one peg for women per day.

8) Walnuts and almonds reduce the risk of heart attack by 10 percent.

9) Garlic lowers blood cholesterol and a clove of raw garlic every day with food will be beneficial.  Similarly, red onions are good antioxidants and should be eaten with meals daily.

10. Stay well hydrated. Drink one to two liters of water every day. This will make you feel energetic and stick to your portions. The benefits of drinking adequate water are tremendous. Take your doctor’s advice on any limit of water intake. Do not hydrate yourself with aerated drinks. Avoid them. Even one fizzy drink every day increases the risk of a heart attack in a healthy person.