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After a Heart Attack

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Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

According to the American Heart Association, a heart-healthy diet:

  • Is low in saturated fat.
  • Contains at least four to five cups of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Has at least two servings (3.5 ounces per serving) of fish a week.
  • Includes at least three 1-ounce servings of fiber-rich whole grains every day.
  • Is low in sodium (less than 1,500 milligrams per day).
  • Contains no more than 36 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages a week.

Because you need calcium and vitamin D, be sure you get enough low-fat or non-fat fortified dairy foods in your diet. Avoid processed meats.

There may be certain other restrictions on your diet because of medications you take. Ask your doctor if there are certain foods you should not eat.

Changing your diet is easier if you work with a dietitian. He or she can help you plan menus and find recipes. The dietitian will also help you find resources that will let you focus on eating healthy foods.

If you aren't able to work with a dietitian as part of a rehab program, ask your doctor for a referral. You can also find recipes and other nutritional aids on the American Heart Association web site.

Become More Active

One of the most important keys to good heart health is to be active. Some people are afraid to exercise after a heart attack. But exercise is exactly what you need to do to strengthen your heart and reduce your risk of future heart attacks and heart disease.

Taking part in a cardiac rehabilitation program is a safe way to become more active. You'll learn how to safely increase your activity level.

If you don't go to rehab, be sure to talk with your doctor about what level of exercise is safe for you and about how to get more activity into your daily routine. Your doctor may have you take a stress test in order to determine what level of exercise you can start at.

Also, ask your doctor what warning signs you should watch for when you exercise and what you should do about them.

A regular exercise routine (for instance, three to five times a week for 30 to 35 minutes each) will help strengthen your heart and improve your overall health. But the real goal is to become more active in everyday life. The more active you are -- taking brisk walks, playing with your children or grandchildren, going for bike rides -- the stronger and healthier you'll become. And that's the goal of making lifesaving changes.

A heart attack is not a sign that you should back away from life and doing the things you like to do. It is a sign that you need to make your health -- physical and mental health -- your priority.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on December 22, 2013
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