If I Suffer from Heart Disease: Nutrition You Can Live with (Tell Me What to Eat)

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  1. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease
  3. Heart disease and food - Better Health Channel
  4. Healthy eating
  5. Heart disease and food

I was 32 years old. My wife and I had not yet celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.

Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease

My daughter was 6 years old; my son was just 4. That experience became the motivating force for me to understand the impact of lifestyle habits on health and to take action to improve them. In retrospect, it was a hard way to learn important lessons. What I had to be taught for rehabilitation I could have learned for prevention. It was a hot afternoon in July , and for the second time in a week I was seated in the office of a prominent cardiologist in Tacoma, Washington.

I was bewildered as to why I was there. Five days earlier, I had been to see my family doctor about what I thought was a bronchial problem. For about a month, I had experienced shortness of breath and a low-grade but nagging chest pain as I warmed up to play tennis. The pain was dull, more like a feeling of fullness or pressure.

By the end of the warm-up, it would usually disappear. I ignored the pain, hoping it would just go away. But one day, it remained with me through 2 hours of play. It was then that I decided to call him. He asked me to come in right away. I had seen him just 4 months earlier for an annual physical and the results then were excellent, so I was not expecting anything more than a short visit and perhaps a prescription. The examination indicated that my lungs were fine.

The results of an electrocardiogram, however, were not. A previous electrocardiogram had been performed just 4 months earlier, and the results then had been normal. The results now, however, were drastically different. I did not take seeing a cardiologist lightly. But I did not believe there was anything seriously wrong, either; I was certain it was a mistake. Like the electrocardiogram, the results of the stress test indicated a problem. At this moment you are a heart attack statistic just waiting to happen. The shock of his words hit me like a slap in the face.

This couldn't happen to me. I was not prepared to hear what he had to say; I had difficulty understanding. He was speaking about a heart problem—my heart problem! Thoughts of escape filled my mind. You're not supposed to be here. As I continued to listen numbly to the doctor, I was confused. Like most people, I knew something about the workings of the heart and the coronary arteries, but the information was chiefly of the Biology variety. It was not that information about the heart and heart disease was not available. The American Heart Association, among others, had produced and disseminated a tremendous amount of it.

But, quite frankly, it had been of remote interest to me. Such information, indeed the subject itself, was simply not relevant to my life. What did blocked arteries or heart attacks have to do with me, a young guy in the prime of life? In reality, what I didn't know could not only hurt me, it could kill me. Such information was simply outside the realm of my everyday life.

But it all changed for me on that July afternoon. As the diagnosis sank in, the age of innocence and ignorance ended for me. I was gripped by pure stomach-churning fear. At 32 years old, I had felt a kind of immortality that only the young experience. The concept of death had been a remote one.

I pictured it at the end of a long life, after years of accomplishment, fulfillment, and joy. Old age was something that I looked forward to sharing with my wife. I had never contemplated the idea of death taking me in my prime. On that July day, the alarm clock of reality rang. I realized that not only could death happen now, but also it probably would happen now, the result of a time bomb located inside my chest. A decision was made to undergo coronary bypass surgery. A week after surgery, I went home to recover, elated simply to be alive and with my family again. But I was very concerned about my future.

Surgery had circumvented the immediate problem—having a heart attack—but had not stopped the disease. The surgery took away the pain but it did not remove the disease. Only a change in your lifestyle habits can reduce your future heart attack risk. This knowledge was complicated by the prediction of another doctor, a nationally known lipid specialist.

I saw him after the surgery for advice on how to manage my cholesterol. Frankly, I'd be surprised if you live to be age The chances of seeing your children graduate from high school are slim. While his bedside manner was harsh, I had to acknowledge that he might be right.

Understanding your heart

For a week or two I was depressed, unable to see a clear path or take decisive action. Then my wife put it all into perspective: You have aggressive heart disease at a young age. But you can change the way that you play those cards.

And we are going to do everything possible to eat healthier and exercise more effectively to even up the odds. And that is what we have done. How has it worked? In I celebrated the anniversary of my bypass surgery by hiking on Mount Rainier with my wife. Now 33 years after the surgery, I am one of the longest-lived bypass survivors in the country. My current biometric measurements—cholesterol, weight, and blood pressure—show that I'm in better health now than in As a result, I have experienced the joy of seeing my daughter and son graduate from high school, college, law school, and graduate school; of walking my daughter down the aisle and making a toast at my son's wedding; of celebrating 42 years of marriage; of gathering with family at my 65th birthday; of holding our grandchildren; and of experiencing a year career of writing and speaking on cardiac health.

None of this would have happened without practicing healthier lifestyle habits.


No one has the ability to influence patient behavior more than physicians do. So, while it is easy to become enthralled with the science of cardiac health—new medications, robotic surgery, and coronary inflammation, for instance—helping the patient create a healthier lifestyle is the core issue.

The science of healthy living needs practical application for it to help patients. If I were a doctor counseling patients on primary or secondary prevention of CHD, here is what I would advise based on my 33 years of managing my heart disease successfully. Responsible for more than , deaths annually, smoking has historically been the single most preventable cause of death in the United States. According to the American Lung Association, if a person starts smoking before age 20, each cigarette costs about 20 seconds of life.

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For a two-packs-a-day smoker, this means throwing away more than 8 years of life. Most people assume that the greatest health risk from smoking is cancer. And while it is true that smoking leads to more than , cancer deaths each year, the impact of smoking on the risk of heart disease is much greater.

Heart disease and food - Better Health Channel

Smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have a heart attack and are five times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death. But I would stress to my patients that there is hope for those who give it up. Research shows that within 2 to 3 years of quitting, former smokers reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke to levels similar to those of people who never smoked. The bottom line is that if you are not a smoker, don't start.

If you are a smoker, get into a smoking cessation program. There is considerable evidence that chronic stress may directly penalize cardiovascular health by raising cholesterol and blood pressure, promoting coronary inflammation, and triggering sudden cardiac death. While much more study needs to take place, there is great consensus about the indirect impact of daily stress: Instead, most chronic stress comes from the fact that we are out of time. We simply do not have the time to do all the things we need or want to do.

I do a lot of different things during the day, but because I'm always short of time, I don't feel that I do any of them well. When people are stressed like this, it makes no difference how much they know about healthy living—and we know a lot! If we have learned anything in the past 20 years of health messaging, it is this: If it did, we would be a nation of nonsmokers. Living with heart disease and angina.

Heart Disease and Angina. CHD is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, your health care provider may advise you to: Lower may be better if you have diabetes, kidney disease, stroke, or heart problems, but your provider will give you your specific targets. Take medicines to reduce your cholesterol. Keep your HbA1c and blood sugar at recommended levels. Living a Healthy Lifestyle. Some controllable risk factors for heart disease are: If you drink, limit yourself to no more than 1 drink a day for women, or 2 a day for men.

Get checked and treated for depression, if needed. Get plenty of aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or bicycling, at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. DO NOT smoke or use tobacco.

Healthy eating

Avoid or reduce stress as much as you can. Maintain a healthy weight. Strive for a body mass index BMI between Eating a Healthy Diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose lean proteins, such as skinless chicken, fish, and beans. Eat non-fat or low-fat dairy products, such as skim milk and low-fat yogurt.

Avoid foods that contain high levels of sodium salt.

Heart disease and food

Avoid foods that contain saturated fat and partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated fats. These are unhealthy fats that are often found in fried foods, processed foods, and baked goods. Eat fewer foods that contain cheese, cream, or eggs. ACE inhibitors Beta-blockers Calcium channel blockers Diuretics water pills Statins to lower cholesterol Nitroglycerin pills or spray to prevent or stop an angina attack To reduce the risk of a heart attack, you may also be told to take aspirin , clopidogrel Plavix , ticagrelor Brilinta or prasugrel Effient every day.