Skip to content

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Time for a Drastic Diet Change?

By Kara Mayer Robinson
WebMD Feature

Finding out you have heart disease can be a big wake-up call for your diet. It's time to make some changes. How far should you go?

Will a moderate change do, maybe cutting back on fat? Or do you need to make a much bigger change, like going vegan or trying a very low-fat plan?

These three questions can help you figure that out.

1. What Does Your Doctor Say?

Ask your doctor what your diet goals should be. Do you need to bring down your cholesterol level and your blood pressure? Do you also have diabetes? Do you have extra pounds to lose? Do you have to be extra careful because heart disease runs in your family?

These are a few of the things your doctor will consider when advising you. They may also refer you to a registered dietitian who works with people who have heart disease.

2. What Are You Eating Now?

How much you need to change your diet depends on what you're used to eating.

Do you eat pretty healthfully now? Or could your diet get a lot better?

“If, for example, you have a cup of coffee, a fat-laden croissant or a breakfast sandwich in the morning, followed by a fast-food burger lunch [and] a drive-thru dinner to end your commute, then you need to clear the table entirely and start new,” cardiologist John Kennedy, MD, says.

But if you usually eat foods that are good for you and a few that aren't, you might just need to fine-tune your diet, rather than totally overhaul it.

3. How Motivated Are You?

Change, big or small, takes work. But if it's a huge change, you need to be really motivated to keep it up.

Former President Bill Clinton famously traded barbecue, burgers, fries, and doughnuts for a vegan diet with very little oil as part of how he manages his heart disease. It took him two decades, and two heart procedures, to make the commitment. He met with Dean Ornish, MD, to talk it over first. Ornish has written several books on diets that are good for people with heart disease.

If you want to go for that but it seems daunting, you could make changes bit by bit, rather than overnight. For instance, instead of snacking on chips, try a handful of nuts. Trade soda for bottled water, Kennedy says.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure