Choosing foods to diet after a heart attack

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All cardiovascular specialists agree that a healthy diet is important to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease (CHD) . But what if you already have coronary artery disease and you may have even had a myocardial infarction (heart attack), angina, or acute coronary syndrome ? How important is the right diet to you?

Until relatively recently, dietary recommendations for people with coronary heart disease were based more on faith than science.

This is due to the lack of conclusive scientific evidence that a healthy diet can significantly improve cardiac outcomes in people who already have coronary artery disease. However, in recent years, the picture has become clearer.

The current American Heart Association and European Society of Cardiology dietary guidelines for people with coronary artery disease emphasize eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding saturated fat, trans fat, and high-fat dairy products. Also, Europeans recommend eating fatty fish at least twice a week.

These general dietary guidelines are perhaps best achieved with a Mediterranean diet .

Eleanor Galli / Moment / Getty Images

What is the Mediterranean diet?

There is no "official" definition of the Mediterranean diet. This name was chosen to reflect the traditional eating habits of the people living in the Mediterranean regions. The Mediterranean diet is a primarily plant-based diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, as well as moderate servings of cheese, eggs, and yogurt, as well as several weekly servings of fish and other seafood. and a bird. A particularly prominent feature of the Mediterranean diet is the inclusion of large amounts of olive oil (the main source of monounsaturated fatty acids ) and a small amount of red wine (a glass or two a day).

New evidence to support the Mediterranean diet

In recent years, studies have been published confirming that the Mediterranean diet can help prevent coronary heart disease and improve outcomes in people who already have it .

The PREDIMED study compared two Mediterranean diets with a simple, low-fat diet, the most recommended type of diet for people with coronary heart disease over the past 25 years, in more than 7,000 people at high risk for coronary heart disease. … After a follow-up period of almost five years, cardiovascular outcomes (that is, the rate of heart attacks, strokes, or cardiac deaths) were significantly better in the two groups randomized to the Mediterranean diet.

In the second trial, more than 30,000 people 55 and older who were diagnosed with coronary artery disease or diabetes with cardiovascular complications were grouped according to their eating habits and followed for an average of 56 months. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet had significantly lower rates of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease.

Verywell's Word

While there are no large, prospective, randomized clinical trials of a Mediterranean diet in people who already have coronary heart disease, the accumulating evidence in favor of a Mediterranean diet appears compelling.

If you want to follow a Mediterranean diet, here are the keys:

  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Plant-based foods should be the foundation of your diet. They should include lots of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. You must include whole grains (breads and pasta) in your diet. Add a handful of walnuts a day.
  • Avoid margarine and butter and use olive or canola oil instead. (Dip whole grain breads in olive oil instead of butter.)
  • Limit red meat to once or twice a month.
  • Eat fish and poultry at least twice a week.
  • If you can do it without risk of abuse, consider drinking a glass of red wine with dinner.
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