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After a Heart Attack

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Treat High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol

High blood pressure and high cholesterol damage your arteries. Over time, this increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Exercise, a healthy diet, and lifestyle changes can help. But they may not be enough by themselves. Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat one or both.

Treat Diabetes and Obesity

Diabetes and obesity are both major risk factors for heart disease and heart attack. If you have diabetes, it's important to work with your health care team to keep tight control over your blood sugar. This can be achieved through exercise, diet, and in some cases, medication. Work with your team to develop a management plan for diabetes.

Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes as well as heart disease. Your doctor can help you work out a plan that will let you control how many calories you take in while you increase physical activity to burn more calories. Your doctor might also refer you to a dietitian and an exercise program to help you lose weight.

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.

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