Everyone feels their best when they consistently eat a healthy, balanced diet. For people with heart disease, nutrition is one of the most important ways you can control your cholesterol and blood pressure and avoid the development of serious complications in the long term. A healthy diet can also help you manage your weight and blood glucose and combat inflammation, which plays a key role in many forms of heart disease.
Some popular diets may contain toxic levels of some nutrients or dangerously low levels of others. Always consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.
What does it involve?
A nutritious diet for someone with heart disease is not very different from a healthy diet for other people. In general, focus your diet on fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, fish, low-fat dairy products, and sources of healthy unsaturated fats such as nuts.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, including Vitamin C. Antioxidants are nutrients that may help reduce inflammation. Foods such as cantaloupe, citrus, tomatoes, broccoli, mango, pineapple and berries are especially rich in Vitamin C. Fresh produce is also often high in fiber, vitamins and minerals and lower in calories. Eat as many vegetables as possible, and eat fruit in balance with other carbohydrates. If you can, forgo dip or dressing in order to cut calories and reduce your caloric intake.
Some types of fat raise cholesterol and may contribute to inflammation, while other types may help reduce inflammation. Researchers have tied saturated fats to increased inflammation. Saturated fats come from high-fat animal products (including full-fat dairy), fried foods, and baked goods made with tropical oils. Reduce your saturated fat intake by limiting your consumption of foods such as fatty beef, pork, chicken with skin, lard, cream, butter, cheese, full-fat or 2 percent milk or yogurt. Instead, choose skim milk, fat-free yogurt, skin-free chicken or fish, and vegetarian meat substitutes.
Conversely, the type of fat found in walnuts, pecans, flaxseed, canola and olive oil, and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, lake trout, and sardines may help fight inflammation as well as heart disease. These foods are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Dietary fiber keeps your heart healthy and your bowels working properly. You can eat more high-fiber foods including vegetables, dried or fresh fruits, legumes such as peas or beans, some nuts including almonds and pistachios, and whole-grain products. Making the switch from white bread to whole-grain, from white rice to brown rice, or from regular pasta to whole-grain pasta will also add fiber to your diet. Oats and quinoa are other examples of whole grains. Always check labels to make sure products are whole-grain.
High blood pressure is a serious concern for people with heart disease. A high-sodium diet can raise your blood pressure, raising your risk for stroke and myocardial infarction. Instead of relying on salt, experiment with using lemon juice or different spices such as pepper or curry powder as a way of enhancing the taste of food.
Consider consulting a dietitian or nutritionist to help plan a diet designed to meet your specific needs and goals.
Eating a nutritious, balanced diet can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, fight inflammation, and lower your risk for serious complications.
Multiple studies have shown that improved nutrition has significant impact on heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet can reduce heart disease symptoms and lower the risk for stroke, myocardial infarction, and death.
Side effects of some heart disease medications, which can include nausea, upset stomach, fatigue, and dizziness, may make it difficult to eat regular meals or focus on a healthy diet.
Fatigue, depression, or physical disabilities may make it more difficult to find the energy to prepare fresh, healthy meals. Making large batches of food in advance and freezing several portions for the future can help conserve energy.
You may feel disappointed to give up favorite high-sugar, deep-fried, or full-fat foods. However, think of diet changes as a chance to explore unfamiliar foods and find new favorites. Many recipe books focus on low-fat, high-fiber cooking and provide a wealth of exciting ideas.
Depending on where you live, it may be harder to get to a grocery store with a good selection of produce and other healthy foods.
Eat Right – National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Nutrition – American Heart Association