A heart-healthy diet is key to atrial fibrillation prevention and can help prevent stroke in the long run. Making heart-smart choices isn’t complicated; and your whole body will benefit.
Less salt and more fish top the list of heart-healthy diet strategies that can help prevent atrial fibrillation. And as a bonus, your new way of eating can help prevent stroke and diabetes, not to mention shrink your waistline and improve your cholesterol levels.
Switching to a heart-healthy diet may require a lot of change, but you can incorporate changes slowly. One of the first things to do is keep a food log. You have to aware of how much salt, sugar, and fat you actually eat on a daily basis. So, the first step to a heart-healthy diet is starting a food log to put your intake in black and white.
One benefit of working with a food diary and, if necessary, a dietitian, is that you can identify the highest priority areas in your diet that need to change for atrial fibrillation prevention. Focus on those first. For example, if you find that your diet is extremely high in salt, start by cutting back on salt every day. Then build on that momentum and gradually make the other changes over time.
Eat for A Healthier Heart
Here are some of the diet tips that will help you with your goal of atrial fibrillation prevention:
Eat more fish. Research strongly supports the role that seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids can play in protecting you against all types of heart disease, including atrial fibrillation, according to Simon.
Limit alcohol intake. Women should have only one alcoholic beverage a day at most, and men should limit themselves to two.
Lower sodium. National daily guidelines for salt are about 1,500 milligrams (mg) a day, but many people — especially those who eat out frequently — may be eating as much as 5,000 mg a day without knowing it. Salt is biggest major concern in atrial fibrillation prevention, because high sodium intake can cause high blood pressure, which can strain or damage the heart.
Read labels. People are not aware, even in less processed foods, of how quickly salt intake adds up.If you are having a hard time keeping track of your daily intake, use an online food tracker.
Choose reduced-sodium options. This will require some research so you’ll know what foods or condiments are your trouble spots. A classic exchange is using oil and vinegar instead of bottled dressing for salads. Another is to use herbs for flavor instead of salt.
If you have to buy prepackaged foods, make sure that the boxes state “low in sodium” and check nutrition labels to be sure you know how much sodium is in a serving. Your total intake for the day is what you need to keep track of, but choosing lower salt options will help you stay on track.
Rinse. Some canned foods, like beans, can be rinsed and drained, before eating or cooking; the sodium-laden packing liquid drains away.
Cook at home. Make as many meals and snacks as you can at home, starting with whole ingredients, so you have complete control over the salt in your food.
Choose whole foods. The less processed the food, the less likely it is to contain added salt. For example, you should opt for fresh fruit instead of a cookie for a snack, as even sweet treats have salt.
Eat a low-fat diet, and choose healthy fats. In general, you should avoid fatty cuts of meat, saturated fats like butter, and partially hydrogenated fats (which often turn up in processed snack foods). Instead, choose skinless poultry and low-fat dairy products. However, if you enjoy a juicy cut of steak, you don’t have to totally swear off this delight. Just follow these suggestions:
Presentation. Serve a platter of sliced steak so people can choose the amount they want to eat. Studies show that when given the ability to choose their serving size, people naturally seem to select about 3 ounces.
Choose grass-fed. Grass-fed beef has been shown to contain more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than regular beef. But beware, it can be significantly more expensive.
Enjoy it as a treat. It’s fine to indulge in a reasonable portion of a juicy steak once in a while if you eat lean and low-fat for most meals.
Go meat-free at other times. Try to plan several meals a week that are meat-free to balance out your favorites. Experiment with tofu, beans, and meat-replacement options, like meatless burgers.
Limit cholesterol. Eat less than 300 mg of cholesterol a day. One of the sources of cholesterol that people struggle with is cheese. Particularly when moving toward meat-free meals for a heart-healthy diet, many people will initially add cheese to these meals for additional flavor and richness.
Cheese is high in fat and cholesterol so your best bet, if you really love cheese, is to sprinkle your food or salad with a small portion of strongly flavored cheese.
Go whole grain. Opt for whole grains instead of refined white rice or pasta. Simon recommends trying a new whole grain each week. For example, experiment with quinoa, a whole grain that is high in protein, as a side-dish one week and wild rice the next.
Choose antioxidant-rich foods. Eat lots of fresh fruits, especially berries, and veggies. They supply a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help your body repair the damage that occurs every day inside your body. Otherwise, this damage causes inflammation in your body tissue, which increases the risk for stroke and heart disease. However, antioxidants help reduce this risk and also keep blood vessels free of plaque, which can block them over time.
Cook healthfully. When cooking veggies, grains, and lean meats at home, choose healthy cooking methods. For example, bake, broil, steam, or grill foods instead of frying them in oil or butter.
Size up healthy portions. One of the biggest struggles when switching to a heart-healthy diet is learning healthy portion sizes. Eating the correct serving size helps you to manage your weight, another key to reducing the risk of atrial fibrillation. For example, going back to the question of steak in your diet: a healthy serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, but it takes time to get used to that.