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How to Eat Healthfully After a Heart Attack

By Allen Smith

One of the most important concerns after suffering a heart attack is making sure you don't have another one. Some of the ways to make sure that doesn't happen, according to the American Heart Association, is by eating right, getting enough exercise and by taking prescribed medications. After a heart attack, you'll need to reduce the amount of fat -- particularly saturated fat -- and cholesterol you eat. Your doctor may also ask you to reduce your sodium intake. You can develop a healthier approach to what you eat and establish lifelong eating habits.

  1. Make an appointment to have your blood drawn every six to nine months to test for your total cholesterol, low density lipoproteins, high density lipoproteins and trigycerides. All four of these are part of a blood lipid panel and will help your doctor and dietitian design a heart-healthy diet for you. File your lipid panel results so that you can compare future results against them.

  2. Complete a five- to seven-day diet inventory in a small notebook or on the form provided by your dietitian. A diet inventory is a list of the quantities and types of foods you typically eat during a normal week. Be honest and do your best to estimate serving sizes and contents. Be sure to include meals that you eat out and while on vacation.

  3. Develop a plan for exchanging fast foods and foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol for healthier alternatives. A good place to start is by referring to the USDA MyPlate. MyPlate replaces the food pyramid and is a simple way to divide the food you eat into categories. Each of the categories offers suggestions for serving sizes and foods that fit into a general plan for healthy eating.

  4. Learn how to estimate serving sizes. Most commercial products today are required by law to state on their labels the number of servings per package, average serving size, grams of carbohydrates, fat and protein and other nutrition facts. If you're at home, use a small food scale to become familiar with the number of grams or ounces in a serving size. Another easy way to estimate serving size is to use the link to Tips for Estimating Serving Sizes. The chart compares average serving sizes with objects you're familiar with. For instance, one pancake is the size of a compact disc. One cup of green salad is about the size of the average fist. And 1/2 cup of grapes is the same size as a light bulb.

  5. Exchange saturated fats and trans fats like butter, lard and stick margarine for healthy alternatives. Acceptable choices include canola oil, corn oil, olive oil and sunflower oil. You can also use nuts, olives and avocados to add oil or fat to your meals without raising your cholesterol.

  6. Eat fish twice a week. Cold-water fish like salmon and halibut are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial in reducing your LDL or bad cholesterol and raising your HDL or good cholesterol. If you don't like fish, try taking omega-3 supplements. You can find them at grocery and health food stores.

  7. Replace processed fast foods with healthier alternatives like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. All three are low in fat and sugar and contain soluble fiber that helps to reduce cholesterol and your risk for certain types of cancer, according to a report from the Harvard School of Public Health.

  8. Reduce your salt intake. Most Americans eat between 2,900 to 4,300 milligrams of salt a day. Because sodium is closely associated with high blood pressure in many individuals, consider reducing your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, or 1,500 milligrams per day if you are at risk for high blood pressure, as per the AHA. Eat fresh lean meats, poultry, egg whites and low-sodium soups and broths instead of frozen fish, ham and bacon, canned foods, cheese and butter and ketchup or mayonnaise. If you must eat canned vegetables, rinse them before cooking to remove most of the salt.

  9. Tip

    Start slowly and make permanent changes that you can live with. Learn how to read packaging labels. Be easy on yourself, but strive to make progress.


    Avoid fad diets that you won't be able to stick to.

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Brought to you by LIVESTRONG
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