Which Foods Are Your Friends?

Pulmonary arterial hypertension diet suggestions

With PAH, making great lifestyle decisions is a top priority—and one of the most impactful choices you can make is choosing a healthy diet. So, which foods are actually good for you and which foods should you avoid if you have PAH? Ask your healthcare provider for guidance on which food choices will be best for you. In addition, here are some general diet tips to get you started:

Toss the salt shaker

You don’t need it! Sure, you might miss that familiar flavor at first, but by substituting the right seasonings, you won’t be pining for that added sodium content for long … and your body will thank you! Try the popular salt-free herb and seasoning blends from Mrs. Dash—available in many different options at most grocery stores. Learn more about how salt affects PAH by reading our Diet, Nutrition, & Low Salt article.

“Which foods are your friends” article discussing which foods can make PAH worse

Eat fresh foods

Canned and preserved foods often contain added sodium. Salt is a natural preservative, so it’s often used to help foods have a longer shelf-life. Similarly, salt is used in many processed foods because they need to last longer for the processing to occur. Whenever possible, choose fresh whole foods (foods that are in their natural form) instead. For example, instead of spreading strawberry jam on your toast, try fresh strawberries instead. Rather than eating canned soup, try tossing ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning and enjoying fresh, healthy soup in the evening. You’ll gain a healthier habit and bragging rights for your newfound cooking skills!

Avoid fast food

If you’re like many Americans, you might find it hard to resist grabbing fast food while you’re on the go. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 36% of adults in America eat fast food on any given day. Dietitians note that fast food on a rare occasion isn’t the end of the world; however, if it is part of your regular diet, it may contribute to your chances of depression, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. For those with PAH, the heart is already working overtime and any added stress may be dangerous.

Understand your iron needs

Iron deficiency is common for those with PAH, and it's been shown that people who follow diets low in iron are more likely to experience worsened PAH symptoms. PAH Guidelines recommend regular monitoring of your iron levels by your healthcare provider. You can also help ensure you're getting enough iron by eating iron-rich foods. Dark leafy greens, peas, beans, and seafood are just some of the many iron-rich whole foods you can choose from.

Man preparing PAH friendly foods.

Foods to avoid with pulmonary arterial hypertension

You may also be wondering what you should not eat with pulmonary arterial hypertension. Luckily, there are some general PAH diet suggestions that you can follow. Remember, however, that each person is unique, so it’s important to discuss any diet changes with your healthcare provider to determine what is best for you.

Pulmonary arterial hypertension diet restrictions

If you have PAH, it may be best to avoid foods that are higher in salt or sodium, including:

  • Canned foods
  • Soups
  • Processed foods
  • Deli meats
  • Cheeses
  • Certain seasonings
  • Frozen dinners
  • Pickled foods
  • Condiments, sauces, and dressings
  • Cereals
  • Breads
  • Fast foods or restaurant foods

Tip: When grocery shopping, staying on the outside aisles of the store may help you avoid the temptation of purchasing processed foods—which can be packed with sodium and preservatives.

Making changes to your diet for PAH

If this feels like a lot to take in—especially if you’ve just been diagnosed with PAH, don’t fret. Changes and improvements in your diet will not happen overnight. Try to make 1 or 2 positive changes each week after getting approval from your healthcare provider. Those small changes will add up over time, and after several months, you’ll look back and see how far you have come!

Don’t feel like you have to tackle your health and your diet all on your own! Partner with your healthcare provider to come up with a plan. If you can, work with a dietitian to determine the best food choices for you—and to discover healthy choices that are still tasty! Don’t hesitate to reach out to your caregiver, advocate, and loved ones for support as well. If your friends and family understand your dietary goals, they’ll be more likely to encourage good food choices—rather than constantly inviting you out for fast food!

How to make lasting changes

Trying to focus on what you are gaining may also help you make changes stick over time. Instead of thinking about diet changes in terms of what you may be missing, focusing on what you’re gaining and your long-term health goals may make it feel worthwhile!

Don’t beat yourself up if you cheat occasionally. You and your healthcare provider may even incorporate the occasional “cheat day” into your nutrition strategy. Change is hard and feeling down on yourself when you slip up only makes it harder. Being kind to yourself is critical to long-term success. Stay positive and use these times as further motivation to do better in the future. You can do it!

What’s on the approved diet from the American Heart Association?

Here’s a quick reference list of some foods that are recommended:

  • Variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Legumes
  • Lean meats and poultry
  • Fish
Image of which fruits from the list of approved diet foods for PAH by the American Heart Association are most nutritious

Wondering which fruits and vegetables are the most nutritious? According to a study by the US Department of Agriculture, berries are one of the top disease-fighting foods, as they are full of antioxidants. Try adding a serving of these berries to your day:

  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Additionally, if you’re looking for iron-packed fruits to add to your diet, try these:

  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Raisins
  • Prunes
Image of which vegetables from the list of approved diet foods for PAH by the American Heart Association are most nutritious

When it comes to vegetables, you can’t go wrong with leafy greens—and all of these various vegetables are packed with vitamins and nutrients:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Bok choy
  • Dark lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Mustard greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Onions

Remember, you and your PAH are unique. So, it’s always best to talk to your healthcare provider about what dietary choices are best for you.

Learn more about PAH

PAH is a complicated disease that can be difficult to understand. We’ve broken it down for you with easy-to-understand information, simple graphics, and informative videos from a PAH specialist.

What Is PAH?

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