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Helping Your Loved One With Heart Disease Eat Right

Eating a heart-healthy diet is one of the most important steps a person with heart disease can take. Proper nutrition is essential to managing symptoms of heart disease and preventing further complications. Not only can proper diet help slow the artery-clogging process, but when combined with careful lifestyle modification, it may even stop or reverse the narrowing of arteries.

For caregivers and their loved ones with heart disease, adopting a heart-healthy diet can help reduce total and LDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, and reduce body weight. While most dietary plans detail what CAN'T be eaten, the most powerful nutrition strategy helps people with heart disease focus on what they CAN eat. In fact, heart disease research has shown that adding heart-saving foods is just as important as cutting back on others. Here are some strategies to help you plan meals for someone with heart disease:

  • Serve more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. These foods may be one of the most powerful strategies in fighting heart disease.
  • Choose fat calories wisely. Keep these goals in mind:
  1. Limit total fat grams to less than 25% to 35% of total calories.
  2. Serve a bare minimum of saturated fats and trans-fatty fats (for example, fats found in butter, salad dressing, sweets, and desserts).
  3. When you use added fat, use fats high in monounsaturated fat (for example, fats found in olive and peanut oil) or polyunsaturated fat (such as fats found in soybean, corn, and sunflower oil).
  • Serve a variety -- and just the right amount -- of protein foods. Commonly eaten protein foods (meat, dairy products) are among the main causes of heart disease. Reduce this nutritional risk factor by balancing animal, fish, and vegetable sources of protein. For animal protein, lean choices, such as chicken or turkey, are best.
  • Limit cholesterol consumption. Dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels, especially in high-risk people. Limiting dietary cholesterol has an added bonus: You'll also cut out saturated fat, as cholesterol and saturated fat are usually found in the same foods. Give your loved one energy by serving complex carbohydrates (such as whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, whole-grain breads) and limit simple carbohydrates (such as regular soft drinks, sugar, sweets).
  • Feed your loved one regularly. Skipping meals often leads to overeating. By serving five to six mini-meals you can help your loved one control blood sugars, burn fat calories more efficiently and regulate cholesterol levels.


Other Heart-Healthy Strategies

  • De-emphasize salt. This will help your loved one control his or her blood pressure. Limiting the total intake of sodium to less than 2.3g a day can improve health.
  • Encourage exercise. The human body was meant to be active. Exercise strengthens the heart muscle, improves blood flow, reduces high blood pressure, raises HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol), and helps control blood sugars and body weight.
  • Encourage hydration. Water is vital to life. Staying hydrated makes you feel energetic and eat less. Encourage your loved one to drink 32 to 64 ounces (about one to two liters) of water daily (unless he or she is fluid restricted).

An excellent motto to follow is: dietary enhancement, not deprivation. When people enjoy what they eat, they feel more positive about life, which helps them feel better.

WebMD Medical Reference

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