Diet chart for heart patients

Diet chart for heart patients – Basic Nutritional Guide for Preventing Heart Diseases

Heart diseases can be prevented nutritionally. Learn how diets with low glycemic load, l-arginine, magnesium and coq10 can prevent heart diseases & sudden deaths.

Heart  diseases often become chronic conditions that lead to impairment in physical activity and active life.  Sudden death is often the first and only warning of a cardiovascular problem. Sudden death accounts for 33 percent of deaths from cardiovascular problems. Both chronic problems and sudden  deaths can be prevented by taking nutritional measures to  maintain proper cardiovascular health.

Heart Diseases

 If heart disease is not reversed or adequately controlled, then it can become a chronic problem that impairs your ability to engage in physical activities.  These chronic heart diseases are  typically due to fixed angina pectoris.   Fixed angina is also called effort angina or classical angina. Classical angina  (an ischemic heart disease) usually results from occlusion of a coronary artery (blood vessel that carries blood to the heart muscle) by cholesterol deposits in the walls of the artery (atherosclerosis).

The chest pain  (angina pectoris) from fixed angina occurs because heart muscles  are deprived of oxygen (ischemia).  If this ischemic condition is prolonged and heart muscles are deprived of oxygen for a long time, then  these hearts muscles would die.  Impairment of cardiac function and morbidity (impairment in active life style) would then result.

An acute and more dangerous form of ischemic heart condition can also occur when a seemingly normal coronary blood vessel goes into spasm and prevents blood from reaching the heart muscles.  This type of heart condition is called vasospastic angina. If this condition is not reversed within a short time, then sudden death results.

Sudden Death From Ischemic Heart Conditions

 Sudden death can occur in conditions of vasospastic angina as well as in classical angina.  In classical angina it  occurs when the partially occluded coronary artery closes down completely and unexpectedly.  Inflammation of the coronary blood vessel is often  the key factor  that triggers this unexpected adverse event. Therefore it is advisable to take measures (such as eating anti-inflammatory foods) to avoid sudden death.

It should be noted that the primary factor that leads to sudden death is the   inability of the heart to pump blood. This impairs the  delivery of oxygen and nutrients to various organs.  The swiftness with which  ischemia  impairs  cardiac performance is what makes sudden death very treacherous.  Another point about  sudden death is that aperson with coronary heart disease might feel  fine when the coronary vessel is partially blocked then face sudden death when the vessel suddenly becomes completely blocked.

Sudden death can also occur in patients with classical angina as a result of  lethal arrhythmias.  These patients typically have ischemic injuries which are dead  muscle cells in small regions of the heart (myocardial infractions). These ischemic injuries provide the background for cardiac arrhythmias.  Arrhythmia via the re-entry mechanism is quite common under this condition.  Some of these rhythm disturbances can be lethal and be responsible for sudden death.  Ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia are typical arrhythmias that can become lethal if they are not quickly reversed.

  Healthy Blood Vessels

 Maintaining healthy blood vessels is critical for  a healthy cardiovascular system. These blood vessels include the vessels in the heart muscles and the ones outside the heart.  The vessels in the heart, coronary vessels, determine if oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the heart muscles so that the  heart can work properly.  The vessels  outside the heart, particularly the major arteries and the resistance vessels determine how much work the heart has to do to pump blood out of the heart so that different organs would have adequate amounts of oxygen and nutrients to support their functions.

 Two basic goals are critical for maintaining the health of the large and medium size arteries (conduit vessels). These are preventing cholesterol deposits and keeping the vessels tough and compliant.  The amino acid l-arginine is an important nutrient that contributes significantly to meeting these goals. This amino acid is important for making collagen fibers, a structural protein component of the vascular wall that makes the vessel tough and compliant.  L-Arginine also supports the health of the vascular endothelium (a layer that lines the inner walls of the blood vessels)  and prevents cholesterol deposits in the walls.

Blood Pressure

 High blood pressure is a major cardiovascular disease that can damage important organs such as the kidneys.  Hypertension (high blood pressure) can lead to premature deaths.  Proper nutritional measures for preventing or controlling high blood pressure can prolong life.  Magnesium and potassium-rich foods are helpful for maintaining a healthy blood pressure.  Antioxidant-rich foods and foods that support healthy blood vessels  are also important for preventing high blood pressure.

A few years ago,  an interesting link between hypertension and  l-arginine was noted.  The investigators found that nitric oxide helps to lower blood pressure in salt-sensitive hypertension.  Since l-arginine is the substrate for nitric oxide, there is a strong implication for l-arginine in salt-sensitive hypertension.  More studies are needed to determine the practical implications of this finding. Does this finding mean that  l-arginine could be helpful for controlling salt-sensitive hypertension?

Nutrition for Cardiovascular Health

 Healthy diet for the heart and the whole body.  A  trans fat-free diet comprising of foods with low glycemic load values, good fats and generous amounts of  fruits and leafy vegetables will support and promote good health, including cardiovascular health.  If you need to lose excess body fat, then you can effectively do so by reducing your carbohydrate intake while keeping the protein and good fats at normal levels. The diet should contain moderate amounts of healthy fats (55 to 77 grams/day  for a 2000 calories/day diet.  This diet will keep  your body fat low and support a healthy cholesterol profile.

Good fats and oils are an important component of a healthy diet.  It is a mistake to exclude them from a healthy diet.  A diet that is devoid of good fats and oils is a bad diet.  Some of the good  fats and oils include:

l  olive oil

l  coconut oil

l  palm oil

l  alpha omega-3 fatty acid

l  unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats

Three specific nutrients for optimal heart health.  L-Arginine, coenzyme q10 and magnesium are three nutrients with notable effects on cardiovascular health.

L-Arginine is an amino acid that your heart needs for producing nitric oxide, an agent that helps to keep the coronary arteries open so that adequate amounts of oxygen and nutrients can reach your heart muscles.  Nitric oxide can also prevent your coronary arteries from going into spasm. This helps to lower the risk of adverse cardiac events and sudden deaths.  Some nutritional sources of l-arginine include:

l  peanuts

l  almonds

l  sunflower seeds

l  walnuts

l  hazel nuts

l  lentils

l  Brazil nuts

l  cashew nuts

l  pistachios

l  flax seeds

Magnesium is a mineral that keeps calcium under control.  Some of the beneficial effects of magnesium include vasodilation of coronary arteries  and prevention of some cardiac arrhythmias, such as  arrhythmia caused by triggered activity (a calcium-provoked arrhythmia).  Some nutritional sources of magnesium are shown below:

l  Brazil nuts

l  almonds

l  cashews

l  pine nuts

l  pumpkin seeds

l  flax seeds

l  black beans

l  navy beans

l  white beans

l  pinto beans

l  soy beans

l  buckwheat flour

l  whole wheat flour

l  oat bran

l  oysters

l  okra

l  spinach

Coenzyme q10 (also called coq10 and ubiquanone) is an important antioxidant that protects the heart from oxidative damage.  The heart muscles are metabolically very active, and they can generate significant amounts of free radicals.  The tissue-damaging effects of these free radicals are prevented by potent antioxidants like coq10.   The ability to produce coq10 diminishes as we age, therefore  increased  consumption of coq10-rich foods as we grow older helps to keep the heart healthy.  Some of the rich sources of this antioxidant nutrient include:

 l  organ meats – such as the liver and heart

l  oily fish – such as salmon. mackerel and sardine

l  oils – such as soybean, sesame and rapeseed oils

l  vegetables – such as broccoli and spinach

l  seeds and nuts – such as walnuts and peanuts


 1.   Thomas S. Rector et al.  Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Supplemental Oral L-Arginine in Patients With Heart Failure.  Circulation.  93: 2135-2141, 1996

2.  Stefanie M. Bode-Böger et al.  L-Arginine Induces Nitric Oxide–Dependent Vasodilation in Patients With Critical Limb Ischemia. A Randomized, Controlled Study.  Circulation. 93: 85-90, 1996.

3.  Tomohiro, A.  et  al.  Regional blood flow in Dahl-Iwai Salt-Sensitive Rats and the Effects of Dietary L-Arginine Supplementation.   American Journal of Physiology.   272 (4 Pt 2):  R1013 9, 1997.

4.   Neil J. Stone.  Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Lipids, and Coronary Heart Disease .  Circulation. 94: 2337-2340,  1996

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

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