Heart attack: The best diet to follow to avoid the deadly condition – what foods to eat

Heart attack: The best diet to follow to avoid the deadly condition – what foods to eat

A heart attack can be fatal and, even if it’s not, it can take months to recover from, and may put you at risk of another one. Be mindful of what you eat to reduce your chances of an attack.

The NHS confirms that the leading cause of a heart attack is cardiovascular disease, specifically coronary heart disease (CHD).

An unhealthy diet contributes to fatty deposits of cholesterol clogging the arteries.

And, should cholesterol block the arteries supplying blood, nutrients and oxygen, to the heart, it can trigger a heart attack.


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Harvard Medical School posed the question: “Are there associations of different healthy eating patterns with long-term risk of cardiovascular disease?”

The research team went on to investigate individual eating habits, using data from the Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II, and Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Accumulative data was collected on 165,794 women and 43,339 men, which ranged from 1984 to 2017.

For this study, the researchers focused on dietary scores of four healthy eating patterns recommended by experts; these were:

  • Healthy Eating Index-2015 (HEI-2015)
  • Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score (AMED)
  • Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index (HPDI)
  • Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI)

Despite different scoring methods, the healthy diets all focused on a higher intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes and nuts.

Looking through questionnaires, the participants had been asked to document their dietary habits every two to four years.

The lengthy analysis found that a greater adherence to any of the healthy eating scores – that focused on nutritious foods – benefitted from a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Those who mostly adhered to healthy diets had up to a 21 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to the group that didn’t adhere to healthy eating habits.


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Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “There is no one-size-fits-all diet that is best for everyone.”

However, “one can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy eating patterns”, Hu added.

Published in the JAMA international Medicine journal, Hu commented: “This data provides further evidence to support current dietary guidelines.

“Following healthy eating patterns confers long-term health benefits on cardiovascular disease prevention.”

What foods to eat

Whole grains

The American Heart Association explains that “whole grain contains the entire grain – the bran, germ and endosperm”.

Whole grains are an excellent source of dietary fibre, which can help improve blood cholesterol thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and a heart attack.

Check nutritional labels when in the supermarket to look out for “whole grain” products.

Common whole grain foods include: oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, whole wheat, graham flour, whole grain corn and whole grain barley.

Fruits and vegetables

The Harvard School of Public Health addresses that a variety of fruit and vegetables is just as important as quantity.

It’s best to mix and match colours everyday, ranging from dark, leafy greens to bright red fruits and yellow vegetables.

The organisation attested: “There is compelling evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease.”

Include legumes, such as black beans, lentils and pinto, into your heart healthy diet, alongside nuts, such as almonds.

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