Fish, Fruit, Healthy Fats: What Should Heart Disease Patients Eat?

Is a poor diet sabotaging your recovery from heart disease? It's National Mediterranean Diet Month, a great time to learn more about the heart healthy diet.

7:00 AM

Author | Jane Racey Gleeson

How to follow the Mediterranean Diet and improve heart health.

Your heart procedure was a success, and cardiac rehabilitation is going strong. That, of course, is great news.

MORE FROM MICHIGAN: Sign up for our weekly newsletter

But there's more to do to keep your mind and body healthy in the long run, says Susan Ryskamp, a dietitian at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

One key factor: food.

The things you eat, Ryskamp notes, are crucial in the days, months and even years after a cardiac event.

That's because a diet high in processed foods — including cookies, cakes, doughnuts, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains and high-fat dairy products — is tied to depression, which some heart patients in recovery might already be experiencing.

These junk food culprits can also cause inflammation in the body and contribute to poor cardiovascular health and other health issues.

Such foods can raise and lower blood sugar, and that isn't good for the blood vessels or brain, Ryskamp says. "A healthy diet can help reduce depression and keep your heart pumping strong. The brain and body function best when they get the right fuel."

Focus on fresh foods, self-reflection

Simple swaps can help you get started.

SEE ALSO: Prevent Heart Disease with These Simple Menu Tweaks

Ryskamp recommends replacing processed foods with vegetables, fruit and fish. She encourages patients to follow the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts — plus fish and good fats such as olive oil.

Beyond the implications on physical health, that menu can offer a much-needed emotional boost. According to one study funded by the Spanish government, foods associated with a Mediterranean diet are linked to a lower risk of depression.

Keeping a diary can help a person stay on track.

Ryskamp advises patients to take note of the foods they consume and their mood afterward. That way, she says, "if you feel tired or unable to concentrate after eating cookies, cakes, pizza or fast foods, you'll notice a difference once you stop this cycle."

Make mindful eating a habit

Another way to stay focused: Ask yourself whether the food going into your body has a purpose.

"Make mindful choices," Ryskamp says. "The better your choices, the better you'll feel emotionally and physically. Your brain and your body will function better."

Setting short- and long-term goals helps in that process.

Says Ryskamp: "What can you do today and then further down the road to accomplish those goals? Now that you've been treated for heart disease, you can continue on the road to improved health."

The Mediterranean eating pattern is taught in the University of Michigan Metabolic Fitness Program, which helps enrollees improve cardiovascular health with lifestyle changes. A physician referral is required. Call 734-998-5679 for more information.


More Articles About: Heart Health Depression Preventive Cardiology Heart disease Nutrition Mental Health
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of healthcare news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]

734-764-2220

Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Subscribe
Featured News & Stories mushrooms in a microscope
Health Lab
How cannabis and psilocybin might help some of the 50 million Americans experiencing chronic pain
Recent developments represent a dramatic change from long standing federal policy around these substances that has historically criminalized their use and blocked or delayed research efforts into their therapeutic potential.
stethoscope
Health Lab
Too much iron can cause big problems for the immune system
A study builds on previous work that found depriving T cells of iron prevented cells from proliferating. The current study, published in PNAS, found that excess iron is just as problematic.
The Fundamentals Podcast Hero Card Final 1800 x 1350
The Fundamentals
Treating Diabetes & Weight: The Ozempic & Wegovy Effect
Today on The Fundamentals, our guest Dr. Martin Myers, Director of the U-M Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute, discusses diabetes research in the context of Ozempic, Wegovy, and other drugs that are changing how people think about weight loss. You can learn more about Dr. Myers here, and you can follow the department of molecular and integrative physiology @UMPhysiology on X.
Health Lab
Mother-son heart bond: Woman relives congenital heart journey through newborn
A mother relives congenital heart journey through newborn.
Health Lab
Protecting heart health during pregnancy
Experts discuss pregnancy and heart health.
Moving illustration of family at the dinner table eating healthy diet
Health Lab
Playing short order cook, forcing clean plates may sabotage healthy eating habits in kids
While most parents of preschool and elementary aged children strive to give their children a balanced, nutritional diet, some of their strategies to promote healthy eating may backfire.