Can the food you eat reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke? According to researchers of a recent diet study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, there is profound proof that, yes, you can, just by following one specific diet that has been proven to reduce heart disease and stroke by as much as 30 percent.
So, what is this magic diet? Surprisingly, it isn’t the low-fat diet, touted by some doctors as the best for heart patients to follow. It’s the Mediterranean diet that includes balanced portions of fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, olive oil, and even red wine.
Dire Heart Health Statistics
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of disability and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 600,000 Americans die of heart disease each year. Given these high statistics, heart disease experts are very excited about the study’s findings.
The Mediterranean diet study observed 7, 447 people in Spain who had high-risk factors for heart disease. The participants were randomly divided into groups that either followed a low-fat diet, a typical modern diet of processed foods, red meat and sodas, or the Mediterranean diet. Many were taking cholesterol-lowering medications or drugs for high blood pressure or diabetes.
Positive Heart Health Results
After almost five years, the results were astoundingly clear that the Mediterranean diet was the winner, reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and death by 30 percent.
Rachel Johnson, who is a spokesperson for the American Heart Association and a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, found the results impressive. “And the really important thing – the coolest thing – is that they used very meaningful endpoints. They did not look at risk factors…they looked at heart attacks and strokes and death. At the end of the day, that is what really matters.”
Dr. Ramon Estruch, professor of medicine at the University of Barcelona, headed the study and considers the results to be dramatic. However, he says more research should be done before making the claim that the diet also works for people at low risk of getting heart disease.
Regardless, Dr. Estruch and his researchers have made a decision for their own heart health. They have all embraced the Mediterranean diet. “We have learned,” he says, and believes that “the best way to use it for protection would be to start in childhood.”
Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, concurs. “Now along comes this group and does a gigantic study in Spain that says you can eat a nicely balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and olive oil and lower heart disease by 30 percent, and you can actually enjoy life.”
Considering that 715,000 Americans are stricken with a heart attack every year, the Mediterranean diet sounds like a delicious option for improving heart health and quality of life.