Foods to Avoid After Heart Attack

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If you've recently had a heart attack, your life has already started to change--and many more changes need to happen in order for you to get healthy and reduce your risk of additional problems. You'll have to take medications, start exercising, eat healthy foods and avoid the type of unhealthy foods that may have contributed to your heart attack in the first place. The right diet--getting good foods and avoiding bad ones--is an essential part of heart attack recovery.

Foods High in Saturated Fats

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After a heart attack, you need to avoid foods that contain saturated and trans fats. These fats build up in the blood when you consume too much saturated fat in your diet. Eventually, they can clog and even block your blood vessels and result in a heart attack. The American Heart Association suggests cutting back on fried foods, desserts, baked goods and fast foods, which all tend to be high in saturated or trans fats. Also limit poultry with skin and high-fat meats, like beef marbled with fat. Even some plant-based foods can contain unhealthy saturated fats, so avoid palm and coconut oils. Read labels to find out the fat content of the foods you eat--saturated fats should comprise no more than 7 percent of your total daily calories, according to the AHA. Less than 1 percent of your total daily calories should be from trans fats.

Foods High in Salt and Sugar

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Salt and sugar pose serious danger for people who are trying to improve their heart health. Salt, or sodium, can cause blood pressure levels to skyrocket--increasing the risk of heart attack. The AHA recommends limiting your sodium consumption to less than 2,300 mg daily--people with risk factors for heart disease should limit it to less than 1,500 daily mg. Many foods contain hidden salt (canned, processed or prepackaged foods and meals), so avoid any high-salt foods, says the AHA. Steer clear of salty pretzels, crackers and potato chips, canned soups and salted nuts. It's also important not to add salt to your meals and dishes--season with salt-free seasonings like herbs.

You should also limit sugar in your diet, as it can contribute to weight gain and boost the risk of another heart attack. Avoid desserts, candy and other sweets, high-sugar beverages like sodas and sweetened fruit juices.

Foods High in Cholesterol

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Cholesterol is a major contributor to heart disease and heart attack. The liver produces cholesterol--which is a material similar to fat that clogs arteries and causes them to harden. After a heart attack, you should aim for a dietary intake of less than 300 mg per day of cholesterol, says the AHA. High-cholesterol foods to avoid include meats, eggs, butter and dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Liver, kidney, sweetbread, brains and other organ meats are extremely high in cholesterol and should be avoided after a heart attack.

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