Atherosclerosis Prevention Diet: Food for a Healthy Heart

Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Aug 23, 2022

    Atherosclerosis Prevention Diet: Food for a Healthy Heart

    What Is Atherosclerosis?

    Atherosclerosis is a condition wherein there is a buildup of plaque within your arteries. This plaque buildup obstructs normal blood flow, decreasing the efficiency at which your blood vessels deliver oxygenated blood. Read on to learn more about how atherosclerosis affects your body, and how to avoid this with an atherosclerosis prevention diet.

    How Does Plaque Form?

    Plaque is typically made up of a combination of:

    • Fat
    • Cholesterol
    • Calcium
    • Several other substances that can be found in your blood

    As time passes, the plaque tends to harden, narrowing the effective space within your arteries, and limiting the amount of blood that can pass through.

    Why Is It Important to Prevent the Formation of Atherosclerotic Plaques?

    Due to the fact that less blood can pass through your arteries there is decreased oxygen delivery to your vital organ systems. This can put you at risk for developing heart disease, stroke, and organ failure eventually leading to death.

    Atherosclerosis Prevention Diet: Why Is Diet Important for Atherosclerosis?

    The exact cause of atherosclerotic plaque formation is currently unknown. However, medical professionals have identified that certain genetic traits, medical conditions, and lifestyle habits may increase the risk of developing this condition.

    A majority of these risk factors can be controlled. For instance, doing the following may lower the risk of this condition:

    • Stopping smoking
    • Increasing physical activity
    • Eating a healthy diet

    However, it should be noted that some factors cannot be controlled, such as:

    • Genetics
    • Family history of heart disease
    • Age

    With this in mind, diet modification may be crucial in preventing the development of atherosclerosis. Keep in mind though that diet is not the only factor involved in atherosclerosis prevention.

    Atherosclerosis Prevention Diet Recommendations

    A heart-healthy diet may also help prevent atherosclerosis. This type of diet involves increasing one’s intake of foods such as fruits and vegetables while restricting the intake of others, such as foods high in saturated and trans fats as well as additives.

    Atherosclerosis Prevention Diet: What to Eat

    The food listed below serves as the foundation of a heart-health diet.

    • Vegetables e.g. Carrots, broccoli, green leafy veggies
    • Fruits e.g. Apples, oranges, pears, bananas, grapes, and prunes
    • Whole grains e.g. Plain oatmeal, whole-grain bread, brown rice

    Atherosclerosis Prevention Diet: Protein Sources

    • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids e.g. Salmon, tuna, trout
    • Lean meat e.g. Low fat ground beef, skinless chicken, turkey, pork tenderloin
    • Eggs
    • Nuts, soy, seeds
    • Legumes e.g. Lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lima beans

    Atherosclerosis Prevention Diet: Fat Sources (Unsaturated Fat)

    • Oils e.g. Olive, canola, corn, safflowers, sesame, sunflower, soybean
    • Nuts e.g. Almonds, pine nuts, walnuts
    • Butter e.g. nut or seed butter
    • Fish e.g. Trout, salmon
    • Seeds e.g. sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds
    • Fruits e.g Avocados
    • Soy beans (tofu)

    Atherosclerosis Prevention Diet: What to Avoid

    Food items that increase the risk for atherosclerosis development include salt, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and alcohol.

    Hence, it is recommended that you limit the intake of the following types of food:

    • Fast food
    • Food high in salt
    • Fatty meats
    • Sweetened drinks
    • Certain snacks and sweets
    • Alcoholic drinks

    Atherosclerosis Prevention Diet: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan

    The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was developed to be a balanced, flexible eating plan that follows the logic behind the heart-healthy eating lifestyle.

    This diet requires no particularly special foods, but instead provides goals each day and week in terms of nutrition.

    The principles of the DASH diet:

    • Increase the intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
    • Include low-fat or fat-free dairy, fish, poultry, nuts, beans, and vegetable oils in your diet.
    • Restrict the intake of food high in saturated and trans fats such as full-fat dairy, fatty meats, and tropical oils.
    • Restrict the intake of sugary beverages and sweets or desserts.

    When sticking to the DASH diet, experts recommend incorporating foods that are:

    • Rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, protein, and fiber
    • Restricted in sodium content; daily intake of sodium should be approximately 2,300 mg per day

    Key Takeaway

    Diet plays a significant role in preventing the development of atherosclerosis. Following the concepts of a heart-healthy lifestyle can help decrease your odds of developing this condition. It is also a good idea to consult a physician and a nutritionist if you have a family history of heart disease or if you would like further nutritional advice to prevent heart disease.

    Learn more about Atherosclerosis here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mia Dacumos, MD

    Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

    Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Aug 23, 2022


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