9 Foods to Avoid After a Heart Attack

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Beasley on March 22, 2021
  • man cooking food on stove
    Changes to your diet after a heart attack can have a big impact.
    Many people can live strong, vibrant lives after a heart attack—if they make lifestyle changes to improve their heart health. A heart-healthy diet is one of the best ways to keep your body in good shape and prevent future heart attacks. In general, you should reduce your intake of saturated fats, sugar, and sodium. Your doctor or a nutritionist can help you with specific guidelines for adjusting your diet after a heart attack. To get you started, here’s a list of top foods to avoid after a heart attack.
  • Burger and fries
    1. Fried Foods
    Reducing your blood cholesterol after a heart attack is one of the top methods for lowering your risk of a future heart attack or stroke. Saturated and trans fats can lead to high blood cholesterol and a buildup of plaque in your arteries, so it’s wise to cut fried foods from your diet. Most restaurants fry their foods in oils that contain saturated fats. As an alternative, try frying or stir frying your favorite foods at home, using healthier fats like olive, vegetable and nut oils.
  • Hotdogs
    2. Hot Dogs, Sausage, and Other Processed Meats
    Processed meats, like hot dogs, sausage and lunch meat, are loaded with sodium and nitrates. This can raise your blood pressure and your risk of another heart attack. High blood pressure is particularly dangerous because there usually aren’t any symptoms. Unless you check your blood pressure, you may not know it’s higher than normal. Instead of grabbing a deli sandwich or hot dog for lunch, opt for a chicken breast sandwich or turkey burger.
  • Bakery
    3. Sugary Baked Goods
    A heart-healthy diet limits sweet treats because they often contain saturated fats that raise your blood cholesterol and refined sugar that sends your blood sugar levels skyrocketing. Processed sweets may also contain sodium that you wouldn’t normally expect in a sugary snack. If you have a sweet tooth, switch to fresh fruit if you are craving sugar. Or bake your own cookies and cakes so you can choose healthy ingredients like natural sugar substitutes and whole grains. And remember, an occasional indulgence won’t spoil all your hard work to eat right.
  • Can of nuts
    4. Salted Nuts and Snacks
    To eat a smart diet for heart disease, you need to take note of where salt slips into your diet unexpectedly. Nuts are rich with good-for-you fats, but try to switch from salted to unsalted ones. The same goes for crackers and other savory snacks. Read nutrition labels and keep an eye on how much salt is in your favorite crackers or chips. Opt for unsalted or low-sodium versions whenever you can.
  • Milk chocolate
    5. Milk Chocolate
    Milk chocolate isn’t the worst food to eat, but dark chocolate is much better for you if you’re trying to improve your diet after a heart attack. Milk chocolate contains more sugar and fat solids than the darker version. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and flavonoids, which can lower your blood pressure and reduce inflammation. Look for dark chocolate that contains at least 60-70% cocoa.
  • Condiments
    6. Condiments and Cream Sauces
    Sauces are sneaky, adding refined sugar and fat to your diet. Condiments such as salad dressing and ketchup may not seem sweet, but they contain sugar that can raise your blood sugar levels. It’s best to make your own dressings, so you can control the ingredients. Plus, they may even taste better! Cream sauces are also a food to avoid after a heart attack because they usually contain solid fats that could include saturated and trans fats and high-fat dairy products.
  • Glass of soda
    7. Sugary Soda
    Sodas packed with sugar can raise your blood sugar levels and add stress to the walls of your arteries, increasing your risk for heart problems. Cut back on sodas and add more water to your diet. If you miss the sweetness, try infusing your water with strawberries or kiwi. Iced coffee or tea are also healthier substitutes when you want a drink with a little extra flavor. Just remember to go easy on the cream and sugar.
  • Steaks on grill
    8. Fatty Red Meat
    Many experts don’t consider red meat to be a heart-healthy food. The problem is that often red meats are loaded with extra fat that can increase your cholesterol. If you love a steak, you can still have it. Just aim for a smaller serving and trim off as much fat as you can before cooking. When you shop for meats, read the labels to find a cut with the least amount of fat. For example, ground sirloin is much leaner than ground chuck.
  • Beer pour
    9. Too Much Alcohol
    Alcohol can put stress on your arteries by raising your blood pressure and blood sugar. Also, drinking alcohol can impair your judgment and lead you to make poor food choices that aren’t good for your heart. Try to keep your alcohol intake within the national guidelines, which is one drink per day for women and two per day for men.
Keep These 9 Foods Out of Your Diet After a Heart Attack

About The Author

Elizabeth has been writing for Healthgrades since 2014 and specializes in articles about alternative and complementary therapies like meditation, yoga, energy work and aromatherapy. She also performs improv comedy and is a firm believer that laughter really is the best medicine.
  1. American Heart Association's Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/The-American-Heart-Associations-Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp#.WHE8s8eMAmo
  2. Avoid These Foods for a Healthier Heart. Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/avoid-these-foods-for-a-healthier-heart
  3. Eating Fast Food. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/DiningOut/Eating-Fast-Food_UCM_301473_Article.jsp
  4. Heart-Healthy Diet: 8 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702?pg=1
  5. Nutrition. Texas Heart Institute. http://www.texasheart.org/HIC/Topics/HSmart/nutriti1.cfm
  6. Your Guide to Living Well With Heart Disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/resources/heart/living-with-heart-disease-html
  7. Why Should I Change My Diet After a Heart Attack? National Health Service. http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/2573.aspx?categoryid=87&subcategoryid=877

Was this helpful?
Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 22
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.