8 Foods for Heart Health After TAVR

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

Eating a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and unrefined foods) has long been the advice for good heart health.

And after a procedure like transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), it’s even more important to continue focusing on heart-healthy eating. TAVR is often needed to treat aortic stenosis, which is also known as a heart valve failure. A recent study found that emphasizing healthy foods in your diet, not just banishing "bad" foods, may be the key to avoiding heart attack and stroke.

My Aortic Stenosis Confession: Susan

But for most people, changing your eating habits is not so easy. Take it slowly, and begin by increasing more of the healthy foods below. You can then start to slowly weed out some of the more unhealthy options (like fried, processed and packaged foods, high in fat and sodium).

1. Fruits and Vegetables

Vegetables and fruits are nutritional powerhouses chock full of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, while low in calories to help you maintain a healthy weight. They also contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Stick with fresh or frozen options, and keep them washed and cut in your refrigerator, or on the counter, for quick snacks. Following TAVR, it’s important to minimize water retention, so avoid the canned varieties that are packed with sodium. Healthy adults should have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day (about a teaspoon of salt). Ask your doctor what your sodium intake should be.

2. Whole Grains

A good way to maintain a healthy heart and regulate your blood pressure is to incorporate more whole grains into your diet. Whole-grain products are made with whole-wheat flour (vs. white, refined flour found in white bread, cakes, doughnuts, muffins, biscuits, etc.). They are also good sources of fiber. Check the label for sodium content per slice. Look for 100% whole-grain or whole-wheat bread, high-fiber cereals (with 5 g or more of fiber per serving), brown rice or barley, whole grain pasta and steel-cut or regular oatmeal.

3. Oily Fish

Instead of fatty meats that contain high amounts of fat and cholesterol, try incorporating more fish into your diet. Certain types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides. Some good options include cold-water, oily fishes like salmon, mackerel and herring. Other good omega-3 sources are flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil.

4. Skinless Poultry

Another great lean-meat alternative to high-fat beef and pork is poultry (chicken, turkey, duck). When choosing meats, stick with lean meats with less than 10 percent fat. Even better, trim the skin off your meat to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet.

5. Beans and Legumes

You can also reduce your fat and cholesterol intake by adding more legumes — beans, peas and lentils — to your diet. In addition to making a great side dish, these are also excellent sources of protein, making them good substitutes for meat. Try them in a soy or bean burger, or in a burrito or taco.

6. Fat-Free or Low-Fat Dairy

Low-fat dairy products, such as skim or low-fat (1%) milk, yogurt and cheese, are easier on your heart. They are much lower in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories — and also provide slightly more nutrients — than products made with whole milk and 2% fat milk. If you're used to whole-milk products , try tapering off slowly, starting with 2% milk first, then switching to 1%.

7. Healthy Fats and Oils

Not all fats and oils are created equal, especially when it comes to heart health. You can reduce your blood cholesterol by limiting solid fats, like butter and margarine, and choosing monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. (Avoid coconut oil, palm oil or palm kernel oil, which are very high in saturated fats.) Polyunsaturated fats, found in certain fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, also are good choices for a heart-healthy diet. Ask your doctor about the right amount of saturated fats and trans fats to aim for each day, and read food labels to help control your intake. 

8. Occasional Treats

While it’s important to eat healthy most of the time for the sake of your heart, it doesn’t mean you can’t indulge every once in a while. Treating yourself to a sweet or a fried favorite is not going to make or break your heart-healthy routine if it’s the exception rather than the rule. So grab a cookie or a handful of potato chips, and enjoy. It will help you feel less restricted, which will make it easier to maintain your good habits.

Heart-healthy eating doesn’t have to take great pains. Be patient with yourself. Over time, you will begin to notice a difference in how you feel, and eating healthier will become part of your lifestyle, and take less effort and willpower. And remember, you don’t have to eliminate all your old favorites. But if you emphasize heart-healthy foods, experimenting with some flavorful recipes, you’ll find that eating can still be an enjoyable part of life with some new favorites.

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  1. Heart Healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease. Heart Disease. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702?pg=2
  2. The 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#.VyyrUz8aIeF
  3. How to Eat Healthy. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/How-to-Eat-Healthy_UCM_307257_Article.jsp#.Vyyriz8aIeF
  4. Focus on Healthy Foods, Not Avoiding 'Bad' Ones, for Heart Health: Study. Medline Plus. National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_158485.html
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2022 Aug 21
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