At first, it may seem like there is a lot to learn. But you don’t have to make these changes all at once. Start with small steps. Over time, making a number of small changes can add up to a big difference in your heart health.
To have a heart-healthy diet:
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high-fibre foods.
- Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
- Limit salt (sodium).
- Stay at a healthy weight by balancing the calories you eat with your physical activity.
- Eat at least two servings of fish each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best.
- Limit drinks and foods with added sugar.
What You Can Do To Help Prevent Heart Disease
So in addition to medications, a critical aspect of treating patients after a heart attack is changes towards a more healthy lifestyle.
And what healthy lifestyle choices do is both a direct effect on the heart, as well as an indirect effect to the heart. A very large trial demonstrated that 90 percent of all heart attacks can be predicted by nine modifiable risk factors, which can be positively influenced by changes in one’s lifestyle.
These would include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, fruit and vegetable intake or lack thereof, truncal obesity, physical inactivity, high levels of psychosocial stress and lack of moderate alcohol intake. These particular risk factors can all be modified with healthier lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise and appropriate structure reduction techniques.
And they are complementary, and extremely important to any medication that your physician or other health care provider will give to you following a heart attack.
Presenter: Dr. Graham Wong, Cardiologist, Vancouver, BC
Local Practitioners: Cardiologist
Activity Plan for Heart Failure Patients
So there’s several things that you can do to help live a healthier life with heart failure.
So number one is you can start watching the salt in your diet. So it’s really important to know how to read labels. So talking to a dietitian is really important.
We recommend that you have a diet of less than 2,000 milligrams of salt a day. That’s a really low sodium diet. Most of us have between four and five thousand milligrams of sodium in our diet.
So what’s interesting is that, you know, most people are concerned about the salt shaker on the table and that’s not actually the biggest source of sodium. Over 70 percent of it is found hidden in processed foods.
So we recommend for heart failure patients that they follow a diet of less than 2,000 milligrams a day. It prevents the fluid retention and that is, you know, when you have too much salt in the diet, you have fluid that builds up in your feet, your legs, and your belly. Sometimes it gets into the lungs and it makes it difficult to breathe.
Being active is a really important part of caring for yourself as a heart failure patient. First of all, it makes you feel better mentally, feel better physically, you sleep better, you’re less breathless. All those are really important when it comes to caring for yourself as a health failure patient.
It’s important that you talk to your family physician about an activity plan suited for you. We really encourage you to connect with your local cardiac rehab program as they can provide an exercise prescription that will help you live well with heart failure.