Post-infarct diet for men and women

Dietary quality and mortality among myocardial infarction survivors


Post infarction: why follow a diet?

After suffering a heart attack, compliance with some simple rules of food becomes of fundamental importance to recover at best and avoid further straining a heart already experienced by the disease.

Infarct diet A proper diet reduces the risk of suffering a new heart attack and helps to control blood pressure and body weight.

It is therefore important to scrupulously follow what is prescribed by the doctor in terms of choice of food and their preparation.

Here are some simple tips on post-infarct diet, for purely indicative purposes, reiterating that they should in no way overlap or replace what is prescribed by the doctor.

Fundamental principles

The basic principles of post-infarct diet are:

Numerous meals, small and frequent, for a correct distribution of energy
Reach or maintain an appropriate weight:
In case of overweight: low-calorie diet to promote weight loss (without extremism)
In case of normal weight: normocaloric diet to maintain weight
Low sodium content
Lack of harmful nutrients
Nutrient richness and beneficial nutritional factors.
Let’s see more in detail how to respect these principles.

Small and Frequent meals

heart shape by various vegetables and fruits

Why share calories in numerous, small and frequent meals?
A too abundant meal greatly increases the work of the heart, both for purely mechanical factors, given by the expansion of the stomach, and for the lower blood supply to the myocardium (the blood flow is concentrated at the level of the digestive organs).
After suffering a heart attack it is therefore important to eat small and frequent meals, starting with a healthy breakfast and avoiding binges (even those occasional).
Moreover, the greater distribution of meals, associated with a correct choice of foods and portions, favors the achievement or maintenance of an adequate weight.

Appropriate Weight

Importance of the normal weight
Weight is a very important factor. It is crucial in both prevention and post-infarct therapy.
In fact, the weight excess (intended as an adipose surplus) is the consequence of an improper diet and a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle, and predisposes to the onset of metabolic diseases such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertriglyceridaemia, hyperuricemia and gout etc.
Maintaining or reaching the normal weight reduces many risk factors that predispose to the infarct or worsen the post-infarcted condition.
The best way to achieve this goal is the association between diet and physical activity. PRACTICABLE (not all post-infarcts can play any type of sport).

Post-infarct diet and physiological weight

The caloric intake of the post-infarct diet must be calibrated in order to maintain, attain or at least approach the weight.
When necessary, in fact, weight loss significantly reduces some of the most important risk factors of the infarct.
Remember, however, that people who have had a heart attack should not be subjected to excessive or subjectively unacceptable stress; therefore, the last minute diets, the extreme ones and all the nutritional regimes in fashion are to be banned, preferring instead to clinical nutrition.
In general we could define that it is necessary:

1- Avoid drastic diets
2- Pay more attention to the portions
3- Choose foods carefully, avoiding junk foods
4- Consume foods:
5- not too caloric
6- rich in fibers
7- low in fat
low load and glycemic index
Increasing physical activity (this must also be prescribed by the doctor and monitored by an expert).
We reiterate once again that, normally, the achievement of ideal weight is accompanied by a decrease in blood pressure and lipemia, and improves the control of type II diabetes and atherosclerosis (important risk factors for heart attack).

Hypododic diet

Decrease sodium in your diet: how important is it?
Reducing sodium intake is critical to controlling hydrosaline retention and arterial pressure.
This result is achieved on the one hand by abolishing or strongly limiting the use of cooking salt (called discretionary salt) and on the other by reducing the consumption of the wide range of foods rich in sodium (for addition during processing or in recipe).
It is possible to use the hyposodic salt instead of the traditional one, but only and exclusively on medical indication, as it could interact negatively with certain drugs.

Hypododic salt: is it always useful?

The use of hyposodium salt has a nutritional meaning only if it is used in the same quantity (or less) of the traditional salt.

On the other hand, because the hyposodium salt “room less” (for the lower sodium content), most people tend to use more of it by nullifying the nutritional meaning.

Useful measures to decrease the intake of sodium with the diet
Limit the intake of sodium with food is all in all easy, just take a few simple steps:

Limit the consumption of foods preserved in salt or processed (salami, cooked sausages, cheeses – with the exception of small quantities of stracchino, mozzarella, fresh ricotta and flakes of milk – tuna or canned mackerel, pickled vegetables, dried meat and fish, smoked etc.)
Limit the consumption of packaged foods (crackers, breadsticks, taralli, croutons, bag crisps, nachos, popcorn in bags etc.)
Do not add salt on food; it is useful to remove the saltcellar from the table
Use little salt during cooking (when preparing pasta, get used, for example, to add salt gradually and only after cooking, thus reducing considerably the amount of salt absorbed by pasta or rice)
Enhance the flavor of food with other condiments, such as spices, lemon or traditional / balsamic vinegar; avoid the meat and nut broths
If the fruit is appreciated, it can be consumed as a substitute for salted snacks as a snack.
The contribution of sodium present in the water that we drink is practically nil, since in a liter of a common mineral water we find only 5-15 mg.
In general, the diet of a patient who has suffered a heart attack should not make more than 2 grams (2,000 mg) of sodium a day, or even less when the blood pressure is particularly high.

Notes: the sodium content of processed foods varies according to the production methods used; for this reason we recommend getting used to checking the label of various food products before buying them.

Hypododic diet: is it crucial for everyone?

In the post-infarct diet, the hyposodic diet is considered a very useful nutritional characteristic.
Sodium naturally contained in “raw” foods is sufficient to compensate for the body’s demands (except for sportsmen who sweat a lot) and all that added or present in processed foods is considered “too much”.
But we must admit that the salt-free diet is not tolerated on average and, especially when it also takes on a weight-loss role (few calories), it has a very high rate of renunciation.
We have already seen that the hypospadic diet in the post infarction assumes a preventive-curative role towards hydrosaline retention and arterial hypertension. On the other hand, sodium sensitivity and the consequent predisposition to arterial hypertension is subjective. In fact, there are forms of hypertension, called sodium-sensitive, in which the excess of this mineral is highly harmful, and the others that suffer less negatively from this effect. Often, in the latter cases, it is of greater importance to preserve the physiological weight by treating or preventing overweight.
In conclusion, the hyposodic diet is a nutritional factor that “may” be necessary for post-infarct therapy but, especially in the case of overweight and weight loss difficulties, it is necessary to carefully evaluate its impact on the pleasantness of the diet.

Further advice

Useful tips and nutritional characteristics of post-infarct diet
Beyond the important nutritional recommendations listed above, the post-infarct diet should roughly follow that recommended for healthy people.


“Bad” fats: particular attention should be given to limiting the intake of cholesterol and saturated, hydrogenated and trans-saturated fatty acids.
Saturated fats are found in high quantities in solid lipids at room temperature, such as meat (fat cuts such as lard and bacon), butter, fat cheeses and certain tropical oils (palm, palmisto, etc.).
Cholesterol is present only in foods of animal origin, such as the aforementioned, egg yolk, offal, shellfish and certain molluscs.
The hydrogenated lipids, instead – often rich in trans fatty acids – are found in many margarines and processed fats that contain them; for example biscuits, crackers and fried snacks.
“Good” fats: on at least three weekly occasions it is important to replace meat with legumes and fish. The latter – especially the blue Mediterranean, cod and salmon – is rich in the famous omega-3 fatty acids, which have a protective effect on cardiovascular disease. Other essential fatty acids omega 3 and some omega 6 (also, in the right quantities, beneficial for metabolic diseases) abound in certain oil seeds and oils obtained from them (kiwi, walnut, hemp, flax oil, etc.) ). Do not underestimate the importance of lecithins (mainly contained in legumes and egg yolk – which is also rich in cholesterol), useful for decreasing blood cholesterol levels. Furthermore, it is important to remember the importance of phytosterols which, as we will see later, are also very useful for combating the negative alterations of cholesterolemia.


“Consuming a rainbow of food” is a metaphorical expression that emphasizes the importance of consuming a wide variety of colorful natural foods, rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
These substances are contained in fruits and vegetables, to which they give typical colors: anthocyanins in berries, lycopene in tomatoes, carotenoids in carrots, chlorophyll in green leafy vegetables etc. (see color diet).
If possible, we recommend that you prefer seasonal fruit and vegetables.
A diet rich in these foods provides many functional substances (phytocomplexes including also phytosterols), which act harmoniously in regulating biological functions and eliminate any need to resort to various supplements.
The Italian guidelines for a healthy diet recommend to consume at least 5 portions a day of vegetables, where each of these is represented, for example, by a medium-sized fruit (with dimensions similar to a tennis ball), a cup (240 ml) of fruit salad or 120 ml of 100% fruit juice.


It is important to consume foods rich in fiber and to limit sugars with a high glycemic index (also called refined carbohydrates).
The best sources of fiber are fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Foods purified or rich in refined sugars – such as industrial fruit juices, carbonated soft drinks, white bread and pasta – are instead low in fiber and high in carbohydrates with a high glycemic index; for this reason, they should be limited both in primary prevention of myocardial and secondary infarction.