Heart attack: Best diet to lower risk of the life-threatening condition – foods to eat

Heart attacks occur when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot, and if serious damage to the heart upscales occurs it can be life threatening. Making lifestyle changes is the most effective way to prevent a heart attack, or having another one, and one of these changes includes eating a healthy, balanced diet.

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The NHS explains: “Eating an unhealthy diet high in fat will make your atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) worse and increase your risk of heart attack.”

A healthy diet should consist of at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day, basing meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes and rice, having some dairy or dairy alternatives, eating some protein such as beans, fish and meat, choosing unsaturated oils and spread and eating them in small amounts, and drinking plenty of fluids.

While these are more general rules to follow, a certain diet has been linked to lower risk of heart disease – a condition that can lead to heart attack.

A vegan diet, which has become increasingly popular over the last few years, has proven effective at preventing heart problems.

The vegan diet contains only plants, including foods such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits, and foods made from plants.

Foods that come from animals do not form part of the diet, including dairy products and eggs.

Observational studies comparing vegans to vegetarians and the general population report vegans may benefit from up to a 75 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure. 

Vegans may also have up to a 42 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease.

Several randomised controlled studies have also reported vegan diets are much more effective at reducing blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels than other diets.

This may be particularly beneficial to heart health since reducing high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels may reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 46 percent. 

Vegans also tend to consume more whole grains and nuts, both of which have been shown to be good for the heart.

A review of 10 studies found three one-ounce servings of whole grains daily may lower your risk of heart disease by 22 percent. 

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Several studies suggest nuts help lower heart disease risk due to their benefits for cholesterol levels. ‘bad’ LDL particle size, artery function and inflammation.

Other ways to prevent heart attacks

Other lifestyle changes to consider are avoiding smoking and trying to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart heart attacks because it causes atherosclerosis and raises blood pressure.

Persistent high blood pressure can put the arteries and heart under extra strain, increasing the risk of a heart attack.

Symptoms of a heart attack

It’s important to recognise the symptoms of heart attack to increase a person’s chance of survival.

The NHS says symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain – the chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, and pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak or lightheaded, or both
  • An overwhelming feeling of anxiety

The health body adds: “It’s important to stress that not everyone experiences severe chest pain. The pain can often be mild and mistaken for indigestion.

“It’s the combination of symptoms that’s important in determining whether a person is having a heart attack, and not the severity of chest pain.”

If you suspect a heart attack, dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

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