In a new study, researchers found that eating a plant-based diet may help reduce heart failure risk in people who have no heart disease.
They also found that Southern diets high in fried and processed foods and sweetened drinks are linked to a greater risk of heart failure.
Heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It affects more than 5.7 million adults in the U.S. and that number is expected to rise.
The major causes of heart failure include coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.
Patients can use medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery to treat the disease.
Previous research has shown that quitting smoking, managing high blood pressure and maintaining a healthy diet and weight could help prevent the disease.
In the study, the team looked at the link between five dietary patterns and risk of heart failure.
The five diets they examined were:
“Convenience” diet high in heavily meat dishes, pasta, Mexican dishes, pizza, and fast food;
“Plant-based” diet high in vegetables, fruit, beans, and fish;
“Sweets/fats” diet heavy on desserts, bread, sweet breakfast foods, chocolate, and other sugar;
“Southern” diet heavy on fried food, processed meats, eggs, added fats and sugar-sweetened beverages; and
“Alcohol/salads” diet heavy on wine, liquor, beer, leafy greens, and salad dressing.
The team analyzed the data from Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study population.
The participants had no known heart disease or heart failure at the beginning, and they were 45 years old and older.
After almost 9 years of follow-up, there were 363 new heart failure hospitalizations.
The researchers found that people who were most adherent to the plant-based diet had a 41 percent lower risk of new heart failure hospitalization.
In addition, people who ate a Southern diet had a 72% higher risk of heart failure hospitalization.
But these risks may be caused by high BMI (obesity), high belly fat, high blood pressure or other factors.
The team suggests that the Southern dietary pattern could increase heart failure risk through these factors.
No links were found between heart failure risk and other diet patterns.
The researchers suggest that their findings support a population-based dietary strategy for lowering the risk of incident heart failure.
They also suggest that people at a high risk of heart failure should eat a plant-based diet and reduce the eating of processed meat, fried food, added sugar, and added fats.
The lead author of the study is Kyla Lara, MD, a cardiology fellow at Mayo Clinic.
The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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