Cardiomyopathy and Nutritional Needs

Cardiomyopathy is a breakdown of the muscle tissues in the heart, the myocardium. First, it breaks down, becomes inflamed and then eventually will form scar tissue. In cardiomyopathy, the walls of the heart can become either thick and hard or thin and weak instead. It may become larger and may beat faster because it is no longer beating correctly or pumping blood the right way. It may be caused by many different factors including the usual such as fatty diets and genetics. In addition, the condition can be caused by:

– Poor nutrition

– Deficiency diseases

– Virus or other infection

– Toxic chemicals

– Toxins including alcohol and cocaine

– Heart damage caused by diabetes.

Nutritional Needs

Everybody needs the three macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates and protein, but in the right amounts and of the right types. Keeping the body in good condition, including at the right weight is important. Poor nutrition may play a role not only in the development of cardiomyopathy but in its progression as well.

Fats – There are three types of fats: saturated fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Saturated fats are the ones that are solid at room temperature including lard and butter as well as hydrogenated vegetable oil like the kind typically included in processed foods. Polyunsaturated fats are the vegetable oils like corn, safflower and sunflower oils. Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil and the fats that are found in avocado. Monounsaturated fats should make up the bulk of the fats in the diet which in turn should make up about 15-20% of the overall calories for the day.

Carbohydrates – The healthy diet should consist of 50-60% complex carbohydrates. There are many misconceptions about carbohydrates, including that they are the reason people gain weight. This is not actually true and they are important for energy- the body burns carbs first for energy. When the choices are simple carbs though, the body is overwhelmed and the blood sugar level rises too quickly causing a release of insulin which in turn leads to extreme fat storage instead of energy creation. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand do not cause the rise in blood sugar and are digested much more slowly. Healthy carbs include whole grains and vegetables.

Proteins – Protein comes from two sources: animal and plant. Most of the protein in the daily diet should come from food sources, preferably low fat, plant sources but there are many kinds of supplements that can be used as well. Protein should make up no more than 35% of the daily calories especially for those who have cardiomyopathy or other heart conditions (Source: The American Heart Association). The average person does not need more than.8 grams of protein per kilogram per body weight. There is slightly increased need for protein when the person is extremely active or athletic, however people with cardiomyopathy are typically not able to be as active and may be out of breath simply doing simple, daily activities.

Protein is classified as either a complete or incomplete protein. A complete protein is one that has all eight essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own while an incomplete protein is missing one or more. All animal proteins are complete while soy is the only plant based protein that is. Low fat protein is the best, especially for those who have heart disease. Eliminating red meat and other fatty proteins is suggested for everyone not only those who are at risk for developing or are being treated for heart disease. Good animal protein sources:

– Turkey (especially roasted, skinless breast meat) and chicken

– Fatty fish including salmon, halibut, tuna and others

– Low fat dairy foods

– Eggs

Soy protein, the only complete plant based protein comes in a number of different sources including miso, tempeh and tofu and soy milk can be a good substitute for those who are lactose intolerant. Because plant proteins are not complete, they are best eaten in combination with one another, making up for the lacking amino acid for one another. Good plant protein sources:

– Beans

– Nuts and seeds

– Grains

Protein supplements can be created from any of these proteins, however protein powders are most typically created from whey, soy, rice or egg proteins. Whey and soy each have the most benefits for cardiac care, including lowering the blood cholesterol level, maintaining a healthy blood pressure and improving vascular health. Both proteins are also beneficial to the immune system which is also important for those who have cardimyopathy which can be further exacerbated by infections and illnesses.

Rice protein is a good supplement for anyone who has food allergies, especially lactose intolerance. Egg protein is created from the white of the egg, making it a low fat protein source, made from what is deemed the perfect protein. Eggs are the source that other protein sources are evaluated by.

Another protein supplement, Profect is different from the others because it is smaller and easier to consume but still has more protein than others. It is less than three fluid ounces and has a full 25 grams of protein per 100 calorie serving. It comes in a number of flavors including, Blue Raspberry, Grapefruit Mango, Cool Melon Splash and Fresh Citrus Berry.

Protein bars are another option for protein supplements but should be selected carefully. A good guideline is a bar that has between 10-15 grams of protein per serving but less than 10 grams of sugar and less than 200 calories (At this size, the bar should be labeled as a meal replacement rather than as a snack). Protein bars are one place where you need to carefully read the labels because some barely have enough protein to qualify as anything more than a candy bar.

Possible Causes of Cardiomyopathy

There are deficiency diseases that are thought to be related to cardiomyopathy including pellagra (niacin) beriberi (thiamin) and kwashiorkor (protein). Imbalanced amounts of calcium and magnesium can also cause or worsen this condition. There are several other nutrients that can make the damage to the heart worse and can make the heart more vulnerable to damage.

Selenium is also a nutrient that if deficient can allow even more damage to the heart to develop. It also plays a role in protecting the eyes from cataracts, binds dangerous substances in the body and protects cells from free radical damage. Food sources of selenium include seafood and some meats. Grains, seeds, garlic and some mushrooms may have small amounts of selenium in them, depending on where they are grown.

Magnesium is important to heart function because it affects heart contraction and may also give protection during a heart attack. Magnesium is found in food sources that include nuts, beans, whole grains and green vegetables; however it is shown that most people fall short of the right amount. Supplements of magnesium should only be taken under the direction of a doctor, especially if cardiomyopathy has already been diagnosed. Magnesium supplements may cause diarrhea depending on the type that you choose.

Alcohol plays a role in cardiomyopathy and should be limited if it cannot be eliminated completely. The limit should be no more than two drinks a day at the very most. Alcohol is directly toxic to the heart and does not allow the body to get the nutrients that it needs.


The American Heart Association

Source by Jim Duffy

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About the Author: admin

I have a BSc and a Master's degree in human nutrition and is a registered nutritionist in San Francisco. I started out as a writer for Authority Nutrition in 2015 and transitioned over to some guaranteed health websites in 2017. Now I manage topic selection and medical review of all health content. I love sharing articles about healthy living, traveling and enjoying quality time with friends and family. I stay fit and healthy by playing with my three kids, preparing and eating healthy food and doing CrossFit.

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