Life after a heart attack

A heart attack can strike at any time, but by making key lifestyle changes you can help aid recovery, protect your heart and prevent further complications of heart disease.

The key lifestyle changes you need to focus on:

  • Aim for a healthy body weight, and follow a balanced diet
  • Avoid smoking or using any other tobacco products
  • Get moving! Once your doctor has given you the go-ahead, start exercising slowly
  • Take any medication your doctor has prescribed, exactly as they advise
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control, and manage your blood glucose levels if you have diabetes

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa recommends these healthy eating tips following a heart attack:

  • Help lower blood cholesterol levels by reducing your intake of saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol. This means eating less butter, cream, cheese, creamy sauces, fatty red and processed meats, organ meats, pies and fried foods
  • Limit the amount of red meat you eat to no more than 2-3 times a week, and choose leaner cuts or trim any visible fat
  • Replace unhealthy fats with small amounts of healthy unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils, soft tub margarine, raw and unsalted nuts, seeds and avocados
  • Eat more oily fish such as sardines, pilchards, mackerel, fresh tuna and salmon at least twice a week. These are all high in heart-healthy omega-3 fats
  • Enjoy a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, and aim for at least 5 servings a day
  • Opt for fibre-rich starches like oats, whole wheat bread and brown rice. Beans, lentils and split peas are also a good source of fibre. Aim to eat fibre-rich starches at least twice a week
  • Reduce the amount of salt you eat to no more than 5 g (1 teaspoon) of salt a day. You can do this by:
  • Not adding salt while you’re cooking, or before you eat
  • Limiting the use of high salt foods such as salty snacks, processed meats, takeaways and convenience meals, stocks, soup powders and gravies.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. We recommend that you limit it to no more than 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.
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