Top 5 Food That Cause Heart Attacks

Dr. Dominique Fradin-Read
5 min readDec 10, 2021

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscles gets restricted or blocked-resulting in a lack of oxygen. This transpires when one or more coronary arteries become narrowed due to a buildup of fatty deposits that form plaque. This narrowing of arteries is a slow process called atherosclerosis, a condition that causes most heart attacks. In connection, cholesterol is waxy, fat-like substance that our liver naturally produces as they are responsible for helping our body build new cells, insulate nerves, and produce hormones. It traverses around our bloodstream in high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). HDL is “known as “good cholesterol” because it picks up cholesterol and takes it back to the liver for disposal” while LDL “carries cholesterol to the parts of your body that need it. It’s sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol” because if you have too much of it in your bloodstream, it can cling to the walls of your arteries, eventually clogging them.” A healthy amount of cholesterol should be produced by the body-therefore, high amounts of HDL are beneficial and may help reduce heart diseases.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) asserted that “heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.” Aside from genetics, this is highly attributed to the common food being eaten considering that coronary heart disease is identified as the deadliest type of heart disease. The top food that causes heart attacks are the following:

Junk food

Consumption of junk food is common for a lot of people since it is convenient and accessible-fast-food restaurants are everywhere and the majority of convenience stores are open 24/7. Not only is it cheap but junk food is naturally tempting. These include fast-food burgers, fries, chips, sugary and diet sodas, candies, and more. They are high in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar that have been highly processed. Moreover, a study (2021) on ultra-processed food concluded that the higher the consumption of junk food, the higher the risk for cardiovascular diseases and mortality. The lead investigator of the study emphasized that “They’re primarily based on starches, fats, oils, sugars, sweeteners, additives, and so on. They’re really composed of ingredients that have gone through multiple physical and chemical processes of extraction, and then they’re assembled into a product that again goes through multiple other types of processing.” These food are generally deep-fried in hydrogenated oils which are high in trans-fat-raising LDL cholesterol.

Another food that is widely accessible is processed meats. These are also the same food found in fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. Because they are easy to store and usually ready to cook, there is no doubt as to why it is a popular food essential in different households. Some examples of processed meats are ham, sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni, beef jerky, and deli meats. Similarly, a study (2021) on unprocessed meat discovered that consuming 150 grams of processed meat a week was linked to an almost 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease. They also concluded that a higher intake of such food leads to a higher risk of mortality.

Some people tend to indulge themselves with steak and wine. This has become their idea of relaxation or a way to bond with family and friends. However, some also consume red meat daily or a number of times a week without thinking twice about it. These are high in saturated and trans fats that contribute to the increase in cholesterol levels A study (2021) examining the link between red meat and heart disease found that “greater intake of red and processed meat was associated with worse imaging measures of heart health, across all measures studied. Specifically, individuals with higher meat intake had smaller ventricles, poorer heart function, and stiffer arteries — all markers of worse cardiovascular health.” Similar to the effects of processed meat, it entails that a variety of meat products is attributed to poor heart-health conditions.

Sweets and baked goods

Consuming too much sugar leads to several chronic health conditions. Sugar is common in a lot of food even when it is not as evident. All the more with sweets and baked goods that are certainly loved by many. People also tend to overeat when it comes to dessert because it gives off a satisfying feeling without the bloating. Furthermore, a study (2014) on added sugar intake found that people who acquired “17% to 21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those who consumed 8% of their calories as added sugar.” They pointed out that major sources of added sugar are sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, and candy. Given that sugar can easily contribute to weight gain, it is also linked to diabetes, higher blood pressure, inflammation, fatty liver disease-all associated with the risk of developing a heart attack.

Refined grains

Eating refined grains is recognized as an ordinary part of people’s food choices. Refined grains are mostly consumed because they are often tastier and cheaper as compared to whole grains. These are white flour, white rice, white pasta, and white cereal. However, the majority are not aware that it contains empty nutrients. While various types of grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates and essential vitamins and minerals, there are also bad sources of grains that lead to the exact opposite. Whole grains are the healthiest as they contain fiber, and nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium, and magnesium. On the other hand, refined grains have been processed-reducing most of its healthy components.

With the knowledge that junk food, sweets, and baked goods, refined grains, processed meats, and red meats are the leading food that causes heart attacks, changes in eating habits and lifestyles should be made. Some are already aware that they consume unhealthy food on a daily basis but choose to overlook this aspect given that it is easier to sustain. On the other hand, some may be trying to find an eating lifestyle that both agrees with their wants and needs. A proven and tested diet that is filled with nutritious food that still prioritizes a great combination of flavors is the Mediterranean diet. This incorporates nutrient-dense food that is rich in monounsaturated fats, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids that decrease the risk of heart diseases. It contains key staples that will keep your heart healthy. In conclusion, eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats on a daily basis instead of highly processed food will provide numerous health benefits that will help you keep your heart healthy and reduce the risk of other chronic health conditions.

Originally published at on December 10, 2021.



Dr. Dominique Fradin-Read

Website: Dominique Fradin-Read, M.D., M.P.H., is board-certified in preventative and anti-aging medicine.