A heart attack is a frightening experience. If you’ve recently had a rude awakening to the fragility of the human heart, you’re probably ready to do whatever it takes to make sure it never happens again. You also probably know that what you consume plays a huge role in heart health. So, what is the best diet after a heart attack?
We have some tips to share with you, but first, let’s clarify what we mean by “heart attack.”
There are different types of heart attacks. But if you’re searching the internet for the best diet after a heart attack, you’ve probably had a myocardial infarction. Put in the simplest terms, a myocardial infarction occurs when there is a blockage in blood flow to the heart.
All the advice that follows assumes your heart attack was a myocardial infarction.
Second, let’s clarify what we mean when we refer to the following as the best diet after a heart attack.
When you experience a heart attack, your doctors follow a certain protocol to support your recovery and ongoing health. A nutritional counsellor supplements that effort by introducing new foods that support your doctors’ priorities.
Each of these post-heart attack diet suggestions are designed to align with standard medical priorities. We explain the role each dietary element plays in your recovery so you can discuss your diet with your doctor.
Water: Nature’s Blood Thinner
One of your greatest priorities after a heart attack should be preventing coagulation of the blood. As you probably know all-too-well, coagulation (or “clotting”) leads to obstruction of a coronary artery. The result is blocked blood flow and a myocardial infarction.
Most heart attack survivors take blood thinners to prevent clotting. You can support this effort with your diet by drinking a lot of pure water. Pure is important. Make sure your water is filtered.
Garlic and onions also promote blood thinning. So when you flavor your food, consider passing up the salt and tossing in some garlic and onions instead.
Load up on Vitamin K2 . . . but Not Vitamin K1
There are two types of Vitamin K.
Vitamin K1 supports coagulation. As you know, coagulation is something you don’t want.
Vitamin K1 is most common in foods such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. While these foods do have a place in the post-heart attack diet (more on that later), don’t go overboard on your intake.
Vitamin K2, on the other hand, is absolutely essential for heart attack recovery. Your clot—also known as “thrombosis”—was caused by calcium sticking to cholesterol. Vitamin K2 facilitates the transport of calcium, which in turn discourages clotting.
Get a sufficient amount of K2 by consuming animal products high in vitamin K, such as chicken legs, chicken thighs, and pork chops with bone.
Go Big on Iron for the Best Diet After a Heart Attack
If your heart attack caused damage to your heart, your doctor probably has you on oxygen therapy.
If this is the case, you can help put nitric oxide back in your heart by eating high-iron foods. This is where those leafy greens become important. Think kale, chard, and collard greens.
You should also eliminate carbonated beverages. When you’re dealing with a damaged heart, your body already struggles to get enough oxygen to the damaged tissue. Carbonation competes with oxygen in your system, making the repair process even longer and more difficult.
Collagen Peptides to Repair Damaged Arteries
Now you know carbonation hinders the repair process. So what helps?
First, make sure you’re taking in sufficient calories every day. As you make nutritional changes to follow the best diet after a heart attack, remember that “healthy” and “fewer calories” is not always the same thing. Talk to your doctor or a nutritional counsellor about the ideal caloric intake for your body.
Second, consume collagen-rich foods like beef bone broth. Collagen peptides are crucial for repairing those damaged arteries.
Eat Fatty Fish to Reduce Inflammation
After a heart attack, your doctor is very concerned about reducing arterial inflammation (and you should be, too). Help fight that inflammation by eating fish that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. This includes:
- Sea bass
- Black cod
- Arctic char
You can also season your food with turmeric and black pepper for another flavorful way to reduce inflammation.
The Best Diet After a Heart Attack is Low on Saturated Fats
This is perhaps the best known rule about the post-heart attack diet. You need to limit butter, cream, eggs, and other saturated fats to prevent cholesterol build-up and clotting.
Now, note that we said “limit” saturated fats. Not “eliminate.” Your body still needs some cholesterol to perform its normal, everyday functions. Plus, eggs are another great source of Vitamin K2.
Just be sure to enjoy these foods in moderation.
Take Your Supplements
It’s great when you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need through the food you eat. But sometimes that perfect balance is easier said than done. For the best diet after a heart attack, round out your meals with supplements such as vitamin D3 and magnesium.
If you’ve had a vasospasm myocardial infarction, make sure you also get plenty of:
- Citrulline malate
These three amino acids increase blood flow, which is especially important after a vasospasm myocardial infarction.
Eliminate Refined or Processed Oils
Your body needs to be alkaline in order to heal from heart attack damage. Ideally, your Ph should be up around 9.5.
This is why it’s important to favor antioxidants over oxidants. Oxidants steal electrons, reducing your Ph levels. And refined or processed oils are a common source of oxidants.
Avoid vegetable oils and canola oil. You can use extra virgin olive oil cold pressed on vegetables, but do not cook with it.
Above All: No Refined or Processed Sugars
The number one food to avoid after a heart attack is refined or processed sugar.
Sugar is a carbohydrate. When you consume carbohydrates, your body produces insulin to transport those carbs. Excess insulin can exacerbate inflammation in your arteries.
Now, your doctor has probably encouraged you to spend some time resting before you resume your same level of physical activity. This means your body already requires fewer carbohydrates for energy. And processed sugars in particular produce carbs with a high glycemic index, forcing major insulin production.
To protect yourself from dangerous inflammation in your arteries, you must avoid refined and processed sugar.
A heart attack can change the way you look at food forever. You become more aware of your diet as a tool for recovery, repair, and overall wellness. Following the best diet after a heart attack may feel overwhelming at first, but it’s well worth the effort it takes to adapt.
If you could use some professional guidance as you recover from a heart attack or heart disease, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at PH² Nutrition. We take a look at everything from your metabolism to your health history to ensure a well-rounded nutritional plan.
And even if we don’t hear from you, we wish you all the best on this new chapter in your life.