A healthy diet can lower the risk of heart disease?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
A “heart-healthy” diet may help to reduce the risk of heart disease, even in those with preexisting conditions.
WHAT WE KNOW
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. The most frequent cause of heart attacks is narrowing or blocking of the coronary arteries—the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart—by plaque. This is known as coronary artery disease (CAD) and it occurs slowly over time. The plaque is made up of cholesterol deposits which are found in your blood. Exercising, diet, smoking and alcohol are all environmental factors that can affect your risk of developing CVD. Research has long shown that a healthy diet can lower the risk of CVD, but new research suggests that a healthy diet may help those with already existing cardiac conditions avoid further damage to their hearts.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
The study included 31,546 men and women from 40 different countries with an average age of 66.5 years who had a history of heart disease or organ damage from diabetes. The participants were receiving drug therapy for their conditions throughout the study. They were asked about their food and beverage intake as well as lifestyle habits (smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise) and were then observed for more than four (4) years. The study found that a “heart healthy diet” was associated with a decreased risk for a new heart attack, stroke, heart failure and death by heart disease. (For the purpose of the study, a “heart healthy diet” was one that included fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and more fish than red meat, eggs or poultry.) There was a 35% lower risk of dying from a heart-related episode, a 14% lower risk of a new heart attack, a 28% lower risk of congestive heart failure, and a 19% decreased risk of stroke.*
A healthy diet is not only good for preventing CVD, but may also help reduce further cardiac damage if the condition already exists, regardless of which medications are used. Fruits and vegetables are a main component of a heart healthy diet and lifestyle. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every eating occasion to ensure that you are getting the recommended daily amount. Encourage your family to try a wide array of fruits and vegetables. Variety is key when it comes to fruit and vegetable nutrition because it ensures that you are getting a bigger selection of nutrients. Variety is not only important nutritionally, but it also helps keep our taste buds happy!
Don’t forget that daily physical activity is essential to a heart healthy lifestyle. Make exercise a daily habit. Join a gym, a running group, a yoga class or set up your own exercise studio at home! Health professionals strongly encourage heart disease prevention as early as possible in a person’s life. Teach your children to lead a heart healthy lifestyle by exercising their brains as well as their bodies.
* Dehghan, Mashid, MD. “Relationship Between Healthy Diet and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Patients on Drug Therapies for Secondary Prevention.” Circulation
126.23 (2012): n. pag. Circulation
. American Heart Association, 4 Dec. 2012. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. View Article