Foods to Avoid after a Heart Attack

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foods to avoid after heart attack

Heart attacks are serious events that affect the cardiovascular system. Some of the main contributing lifestyle factors to heart attacks include lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol, stress, and diet.   

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to promote heart health and prevent cardiovascular events, like heart attacks.

If you have already had a heart attack, making changes to your diet are more important than ever. You’re recovering from the trauma, but you likely still have the disease that caused it.

While you should make sure to visit a registered dietician regularly to determine what the best diet is for you, this article can serve as a general guide or reminder as to what not to eat when you are recovering from a heart attack. Incidentally, it is identical to the diet you should lead to prevent heart attacks.

But, first…

What Should You Be Eating After a Heart Attack?

The American Heart Association has developed a series of recommendations that of what your diet should look like after a heart attack. Some of these recommendations include:

  • Eat a variety of fresh, frozen and canned (unsweetened and low-sodium) vegetables and fruits.
  • Choose lean, skinless meats like poultry and fish, cooked with healthy oils or baked-.
  • Select fat-free and low-fat dairy
  • Choose foods with less sodium
  • If you drink alcohol, drink it in moderation
  • Make sure you are control your portion size
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains
  • Snack on unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Choose oils with high omega-3 content (like olive oil and canola oil), and avoid trans fats

Filling your plate with these foods will help you be on your way to having a healthier heart and preventing another cardiac event.

There are also several foods that you should avoid after a heart attack. Below, we list and describe four foods that you should keep off your plate at all cost after having had a heart attack.

  • Salty snacks and fast food

Fast food is very high in sodium (salt), as are salty snacks like chips, crackers, and French fries. A high-sodium diet can increase your blood pressure, which is bad news for your cardiovascular system.

  • Sugary snacks

Doctors and dieticians have long recommended that people with heart issues avoid sugary snacks. For one, they are generally void of nutrients, and packed with calories. Eating a lot of these foods can increase your risk for obesity. The direct mechanism between high-sugar diets and impact on heart health is just now being understood. Animal trials show that high-sugar diets may actually affect the systolic and diastolic (pumping) mechanisms of the heart.

  • Full-fat dairy

While recent evidence has contradicted the relationship between consuming full-fat dairy and the risk of heart disease, several national heart associations still recommend avoiding full-fat dairy, since people who already have high blood lipids are more sensitive to the effects of dietary fat in their health.

  • Red meat

Red meat contains a significant amount of saturated fat that can increase your cholesterol and triglycerides: two risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, consuming red meat regularly can lead to oxidative damage that can lead to heart disease and different types of cancer.

After you have had a heart attack, your risk for a second heart attack is higher. You can help to reduce your risk for a heart attack by making changes to your diet. You can increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, and eliminate fatty, salty, and sugary foods like red meat, fast foods, and processed snacks.

Remember to always seek the support of your health team, including your doctor and your dietician, as you make lifestyle changes after a significant event like a heart attack.

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Sasha deBeausset is a Nutritional Anthropologist with a B.A. from Tufts University, an M.Sc. in Food and Nutrition from the University of San Carlos, and is currently in the process of becoming a licensed nutritionist. She has been awarded for her academic writing and research, and she has been blogging on food, health, and nutrition for over five years. Sasha is passionate about contributing to making quality and research-based information available freely on the web so people can inform themselves and make better decisions for their health.

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