Dear Dietitian – Changing Diet After a Heart Attack?

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Published Saturday, March 3, 2018
by Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC

I had a heart attack about six weeks ago, which required bypass surgery. While in the hospital, I was bombarded by different professionals who instructed me to quit smoking, stop using salt, and change my diet to low fat/low cholesterol. I was very overwhelmed after major surgery that I only remember about half of what I was told.  I have managed to stop smoking but haven't gotten to the diet change yet. Can you help?

Undergoing heart surgery is a major event. Congratulations on quitting smoking!  That was a HUGE first step. Change occurs over time. No one gets up and says, "I'm going to change my entire life in the next 24 hours." Your next step may be to cut out junk foods and fried foods. Then you can focus on decreasing the amount of salt in your diet. You may also make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) to work out a meal plan.

Most hospitals have Cardiac Rehabilitation outpatient programs (which I highly recommend) where basic heart healthy nutrition and exercise are taught.  These programs also offer peer support, which is one of the most important factors when making lifestyle changes.  We all need some help sometimes; we were never meant to go it alone.

One thing I know for sure is that adapting to a heart healthy lifestyle CAN be done. My uncle had heart bypass surgery at age 42. He quit smoking, quit drinking alcohol, lost weight and began an exercise routine which he continues today. Now he is 79 years old and planning his next travel vacation. 

My blessings to you. Please write to me in a few months to let me know how you are doing.

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian with over fifteen years of experience. Have a question?  Email Leanne at