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Best Diets to Prevent Heart Disease

Authored by The Rx Advocates, / Medically Reviewed by Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS
Last Updated: February 6, 2022

There are several diets that doctors recommend to prevent heart disease. This condition can be extremely dangerous, and even life-threatening in some cases. Eating the right food can help.

 

What is Heart Disease? 

Heart disease is a broad term that covers a range of different heart conditions. These conditions can be some you are born with, congenital heart defects, or others that can be brought on by lifestyle and diet, such as coronary artery disease or diseases of the heart muscle.

Types of Heart Disease

Coronary Artery Disease

Symptoms of heart disease can vary depending on what kind of heart disease a person may have.

Coronary heart disease, CAD, occurs when a buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries can lead to damage to the heart. This buildup causes blood vessels to narrow or, in some cases, be blocked completely.

When this happens it can lead to heart attacks, chest pains, or a stroke.

Symptoms may also vary depending on if the patient is a man or a woman. Men tend to primarily have chest pain as a sign of an issue, while women have other symptoms along with chest pain.

Women may also experience shortness of breath, nausea, and extreme fatigue with heart disease.

Symptoms of serious problems can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, or back
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Chest discomfort (angina)
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs or arms
  • Limbs may be colder than the rest of the body (poor circulation)
Heart Arrhythmia

Some heart disorder symptoms can be caused by the heart beating out of rhythm. This condition is known as heart arrhythmia. The heart may beat too fast, too slowly, or irregularly.

Symptoms of heart arrhythmia can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest discomfort
  • Fluttering in the chest
  • Fainting 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Racing and slow heartbeats
Congenital Heart Defects

Some people may be born with defects of the heart. These defects are known as congenital and are usually noticed in utero or soon after birth.

Serious heart defects in infants and children can cause swelling in the legs, shortness of breath, or a pale gray or blue skin color known as cyanosis.

Congenital heart defects that can lead to heart disease can be any of the following:

  • Atrial septal defects
  • Ebstein’s anomaly
  • Inherited arrhythmia 
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Coarctation of the aorta
Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart that makes it hard for the muscle to pump blood to the body. This disease can lead to heart failure.

Symptoms of cardiomyopathy include:

  • Breathlessness with activity or at rest
  • Coughing while lying down
  • Difficulty lying flat to sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Bloating in the abdomen
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

 

Can Heart Disease be Prevented?

The number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. There are many things that can increase your risk of getting this disease, though some things do occur that are beyond your control.

Some of the specific risk factors that can increase the chance of heart disease and cannot be changed include your sex, age, race, and family history.

However, even with those factors, some things can be done to lower the risk of getting heart disease.

These factors include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Do not start smoking or quit if you are already a smoker.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress.
  • Control blood pressure.
  • Keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
  • Eat a healthy diet.

Top Diets To Prevent Heart Disease

Many factors known to prevent heart disease involve maintaining a healthy diet.

If a healthy diet is followed, you can better manage your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. When the body’s systems work correctly, there is a lower risk of developing or worsening heart disease.

Diets high in fiber with healthy fats and antioxidants can support the heart and body. It is best to avoid excess sugar and processed foods as those foods can tax the body.

Here are some diets that are heart-healthy that can be incorporated into any lifestyle: 

The DASH Diet

DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This way of eating was designed to prevent and treat high blood pressure.

The DASH diet does not have a strict food list to follow. It recommends whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Low-fat dairy and lean meats are also recommended.

DASH also includes foods that are high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium. All of these nutrients aid the body in controlling blood pressure.

Sodium intake is limited on this food plan to 1 teaspoon or 2,300 mg per day. The average American diet can have up to 3,400 mg or more a day.

Reducing sodium intake significantly reduces blood pressure when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. Maintaining healthy blood pressure works to reduce stress on the heart to help ensure it is pumping correctly.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is another food plan that focuses on eating to support a healthy heart. By focusing on fruits, vegetables, and heart-healthy fats, this way of eating regulates blood sugar and may help support brain function.

Maintaining blood sugar levels in the normal range allows the body’s systems to function properly.

Following the Mediterranean Diet consists of eating vegetables, fruits, nuts, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil.

Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt are to be eaten in moderation.

Red meat, foods with added sugar, processed meats, or other highly processed foods should be eaten very rarely or avoided altogether.

Vegetarian

Another way of eating that could support a healthy heart is following a vegetarian lifestyle. This way of eating eliminates all forms of meat. Instead, there is an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and beans.

Vegetarian diets are high in fiber and antioxidants, which can help the heart function. Eating that is focused on whole foods can lead to lower cholesterol levels and maintain healthy blood sugar levels and weight. All of this is important in keeping risk factors for heart disease low.

 

Living with Heart Disease

If you are diagnosed with heart disease, you can still do many things to support your body and care for your heart. These include following the diet that is best for you. Your doctor can help point you in the right direction when looking for diet tips. In some cases, your doctor might suggest consulting with a dietitian. A dietitian can help you determine what is best, based on your individual needs.

Incorporating daily exercise can also help contribute towards a healthier lifestyle. If you have led a mostly sedentary lifestyle, you may need to consult with your doctor to determine which exercises will be best for you based on your personal needs.

Managing stress is also a key factor in maintaining and supporting the body. Finding different ways to help the mind and body relax can help keep blood pressure low which reduces stress on the heart.

Finally, your doctor may prescribe medications to help manage your heart disease symptoms. Some of these medications could be anticoagulants such as Xarelto, or Beta-Blockers which are known medications for high blood pressure or arrhythmias. Medicines that are prescribed should be taken as directed by your doctor.

It is possible to live a fulfilled life even if you have been diagnosed with heart disease.

 

Get Help Paying for Your Heart Disease Medications Through The Rx Advocates

If you are diagnosed with heart disease, a healthy diet, an active lifestyle, and taking medication as prescribed can help you manage your symptoms.

The Rx Advocates can work with you to help ensure your medication costs are not a financial burden.  We are not an insurance company or a prescription service.

What we do is work with you and your doctors to fill out an application. Once the application is completed, we will work with the pharmaceutical companies to ensure your applications are being processed.

After your application is approved, we will handle the management of any refills you may need in the future.

Once you are approved, your prescription medications are free. The only cost to you is our service fee, which is dependent on the number of medicines you qualify for through our program.

Please contact us to see if the cost of your heart disease medications is covered through our program.

 

Sources:

Mayo Clinic. Heart Disease. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353118.

Cleveland Clinic. Congenital Heart Disease. https://pages.clevelandclinic.org/congenital-heart-disease-index.html?utm_source=google_ppc&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Heart%20-%20Congenital%20Heart%20Disease%20-%20General%20-%20Region%201%2C%202%2C%203&utm_term=congenital%20heart%20disease&gclid=CjwKCAiA7dKMBhBCEiwAO_crFIkxxll0GJuTKtmYL98_9TCZDrNIx_PQ1io0KW3AHIpci4yfWmQdIxoCtUMQAvD_BwE.

Mayo Clinic. Cardiomyopathy. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cardiomyopathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20370709.

CDC. Coronary Artery Disease.
https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/coronary_ad.htm.

Medline Plus. Heart Disease.
https://medlineplus.gov/howtopreventheartdisease.html.

Healthline. Nutrition.
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan.

Mayo Clinic. Nutrition. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456.

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