Heart bypass surgery, otherwise known as coronary artery bypass surgery, is a surgical procedure that repairs damaged arteries in the heart. This surgery doesn’t cure heart disease, but reduces symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath. It also helps improve heart blood flow and cardiac function. Heart bypass surgery is most effective when coupled with lifestyle changes. After this surgery, it's important to exercise regularly and follow a diet that promotes weight loss, low blood pressure and low cholesterol. Making these lifestyle changes will maximize the positive impacts of your heart bypass surgery and keep your heart healthy.
There are many diets that heart bypass patients can follow after surgery, some of the tastiest include the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. These diets recommend eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and healthy fats, like olive oil. Fish, poultry and other lean meats can be consumed in moderation. Red, processed and cured meats, refined carbohydrates, dairy products and alcohol are typically limited.
Heart bypass patients were once told that high-fat and high-cholesterol are the most important foods to avoid after heart bypass surgery. However, this isn’t strictly true. Healthy fats are important and actually improve cardiovascular function. According to a 2018 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts was shown to be better than the reduced diet for people with cardiovascular issues.
Foods to Avoid After Surgery
There are various foods associated with the development of heart disease. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Nutrition, these are the foods that impact cardiovascular health the most:
- Refined grains are thought to increase risk of coronary heart disease, as well as diabetes and other chronic illnesses. You can replace these with whole grains, which lower risk. Whole grain foods include oatmeal, buckwheat and barley.
- Hydrogenated and trans fat products have been linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. You can replace these with healthy fats, like extra-virgin olive oil, sesame seed oil or nut-based oil.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with increased weight gain, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. You can replace these with unsweetened fruit smoothies and homemade juices, or you can simply drink water.
- High sodium intake and salt-preserved foods increase blood pressure, and risk of cardiovascular disease and stomach cancer.
- Alcohol does not need to be avoided as long as it's consumed in moderation.
Recipes After Heart Bypass Surgery
If your previous diet involved a lot of ready-to-eat meals or takeout foods, it can be hard to know what to cook and how to cook it. Fortunately, in addition to listing recommended dietary guidelines, the American Heart Association lists many recipes for after heart bypass surgery. The Cleveland Clinic also offers recipes focused on a heart-healthy diet. Remember that you aren’t restricted to bland foods or only salads. Countries that adhere to the Mediterranean diet, like Spain and Italy, are well-known for having some of the best food in the world.
- American Heart Association: Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
- New England Journal of Medicine: Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease With a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented With Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts
- The Journal of Nutrition: Alternative Dietary Indices Both Strongly Predict Risk of Chronic Disease
- American Heart Association: Heart-Check Foods
- The Cleveland Clinic: Nutrition Guidelines: Heart Healthy Diet
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Preventing Heart Disease
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium
- The Mayo Clinic: Coronary Bypass Surgery