Myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, can happen at any moment. These occur when inadequate blood flow or a lack of oxygen damages the heart muscle. Diet also plays an important role in reducing the risk for a myocardial infarction. If you are at risk for or have already experienced a heart attack, it is important to follow a heart healthy diet and to exercise.
Some risk factors for myocardial infarction cannot be changed; these include personal or family history of heart disease, ethnicity and age. However, many risk factors are modifiable, and making simple changes to your diet or lifestyle can drastically reduce your risk for a heart attack. The risk factors you do have control over include tobacco smoke, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes mellitus. Making changes to your diet can have a big effect on your risk factors, and can reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure, and can help you achieve a normal weight.
The DASH Diet
The term DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet is considered heart healthy, because it follows guidelines to limit saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. When compared to a typical eating plan in the United States, the DASH diet reduced the estimated risk of having a heart attack by 18 percent. It might take a little planning, but the DASH diet is not difficult to follow.
For a 2,000-calorie diet, it is recommended that you consume six to eight 1-ounce servings of grains; four to five 1-cup servings of vegetables; four to five 1-cup servings of fruit; two to three 8-ounce servings of fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products; and six 1-ounce servings of lean meat, poultry and fish per day. The DASH diet also recommends that you have four to five 1/3-cup servings of nuts, seeds and legumes each week. Limit your fats and oils to two to three servings per day and have five or fewer servings of added sugars per week. In addition to this meal plan, it is important to limit your sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams, drop your cholesterol to 150 milligrams and reduce your saturated fat intake to 6 percent of total calories, per day.
The Mediterranean Diet
The common Mediterranean diet has many heart healthy benefits. This diet encourages a high intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It encourages the use of monounsaturated fats such as olive oils and does not include many saturated fats. Fish, poultry, dairy and red wine are consumed as part of the Mediterranean diet. When it comes heart health, one concern with this diet is that a large portion of its calories are often derived from fat, which can lead to increased obesity, a known risk factor for heart disease. Be sure to talk with your doctor or dietitian to find out which diet is best for you.
Keep It Moving
One of the most modifiable risk factors of myocardial infarction is physical inactivity. You can modify your activity level so that you can reduce your risk of having a myocardial infarction. The American Heart Association recommends at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This could be a brisk jog around the block, a bike ride, swimming or playing a sport like basketball. Remember that regular exercise can lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke..
- The Journal of the American Medical Association: Myocardial Infarction
- American Heart Association: Understand Your Risk of Heart Attack
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH
- American Heart Association: DASH Eating Plan Lowers Long-Term Heart Attack Risk, Especially Among African Americans
- American Heart Association: Mediterranean Diet
- American Heart Association: Heart Encyclopedia