Heart attacks, or myocardial infarction, were once fatal, but today significant prevention strategies and updated treatments make survival very likely for heart attack sufferers. A heart attack generally occurs when there is blockage of the coronary artery, preventing blood flow. Eating habits play a large role in heart attack prevention. Consult your doctor about heart-healthy diet plans if you have a history of heart attacks in your family as it is never too early to take preventive steps.
The American Heart Association outlines that you should minimize your saturated fat to 7 grams or less per day. Saturated fat contributes to heart disease and heart attacks because it can significantly raise blood cholesterol. Food from animals is the largest group containing saturated fat, although some plant food has saturated fat as well. Animal foods that contain high amounts of saturated fat include poultry fat, beef fat, beef, veal, pork, lamb, lard, butter, milk, cheeses and cream. Plant-derived foods that contain saturated fat include coconut, coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter.
Trans fat is unhealthy and should be avoided by all age groups for optimal health and to prevent heart attacks. Trans fat not only increases LDL or "bad" cholesterol, it decreases HDL or "good cholesterol." This combination increases your risk of heart disease and a heart attack. Foods that are highly concentrated sources of trans fat include shortening, butter, margarine, cake mixes and many frozen foods. Many fast food meats and french fries are cooked in partially hydrogenated oil, which contains trans fat, as well.
If the fats within a product undergo a chemical process called hydrogenation, they become hydrogenated fats. This process is quite common in shortening and margarine. Hydrogenated fats can raise your blood cholesterol and narrow arteries to your heart. If hydrogenated oil is listed among the first three or four ingredients of a nutrition label, it generally indicates a high level of hydrogenated fats.
Fats that are unhealthy for your arteries and cholesterol should also be avoided to keep excess weight off of your heart and other organs. Carrying around excess weight puts you at a higher risk for heart disease and for having a heart attack. Along with bad fats, limit your salt intake as part of a heart-healthy diet.
The American Heart Association warns people to be particularly cautious with fast food because there is no nutrition label regulation. Fast food is commonly advertised as cholesterol-free but is often cooked in partially hydrogenated oil, making the final product full of trans fat and cholesterol. Furthermore, the United States only requires that food labels list trans fat if it contains 0.5 gram or more. Check nutrition labels carefully to make sure the food is not made with partially hydrogenated oils, as this indicates trans fat content.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Heart Attack
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- Medline Plus: Heart Disease and Diet
- University of Pennsylvania: The Top 10 Foods to Beware
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Tips to Spot Hydrogenated Fat/Trans Fat in Foods
- PubMed.gov: Effects of Different Forms of Dietary Hydrogenated Fats on Serum Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels
- Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.