How does what I eat affect my heart?

Your diet can impact the way blood flows through your heart and arteries. If you consume a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fat, you can gradually develop a buildup of plaque in your arteries. When buildup becomes significant, blood flow is reduced. If the blockage stops blood from reaching the brain, part of the brain can die and this is called a stroke. When a blockage happens in an artery that carries blood to the heart muscle, part of the heart muscle can die and that is called a heart attack. Use the tips below to help keep your arteries clear and reduce your risk of heart problems and stroke.

Tips for a heart-healthy diet:

  • Eat less fat – especially butter, coconut and palm oils, saturated fats (fats from animal products such as meats and dairy products), and trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils).
  • Use nonstick vegetable oil cooking sprays instead of oils.
  • Buy lean cuts of meat; reduce portion size to four ounces (the size of a deck of cards).
  • Eat more fish, skinless chicken and turkey.
  • Try low-fat snacks that have been baked instead of fried, such as pretzels.
  • Drink skim milk, and buy low-fat cheese, yogurt.
  • Buy sherbet, ice milk or frozen low-fat yogurt instead of ice cream.
  • Have a bagel or English muffin instead of a donut or pastry.
  • Limit egg yolks (use egg whites or egg substitutes).
  • Bake, broil, steam or grill foods instead of frying them.
  • Eat fewer “fast foods” (burgers, fried foods), which are high in fat.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates (whole grain rice, pasta, breads, grains).
  • Drink low-calorie beverages, such as unsweetened tea or flavored water.

The information in this publication is meant to complement the advice of your health-care providers, not to replace it. Before making any major changes in your medications, diet, or exercise, talk to your doctor. Articles written by outside contributors have not been reviewed by the Hope Health Medical Advisory Board.

Medical Editor: William J. Mayer, MD, MPH

Medical Advisory Board: Victor J. Barry, DDS; Renee Belfor, RD; Kenneth Holtyn, MS; Robert H. Knopp, MD; Gary B. Kushner, SPHR, CBP; Scott Musial, BS, MS, RPh; Vicki Rackner, MD, FACS; Lester R. Sauvage, MD; Wallace Wilkins, PhD

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© by the Hope Heart Institute, Seattle, WA Institute Founder: Lester R. Sauvage, MD; President: Mark Nudelman