Heart disease is the main cause of death in developed countries.
There is evidence that shows that factors related to lifestyle, such as diet, have an influence on developing these kinds of diseases. But, do they have any effect on patients who are already ill?
In a new study, researchers found that the Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of having another heart attack.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Córdoba and elsewhere.
In the study, the team compared the effects of two different healthy diets on the endotheliem, the walls that cover the arteries.
1002 patients who had previously had a heart attack took part in the study and were monitored over the course of a year.
Half of the patients were told to follow a Mediterranean diet, based on using plenty of virgin olive oil, eating fruit and vegetables every day, and having three servings of legumes, three of fish, and three of nuts a week.
In addition, they were told to cut down on eating meat, especially red meat, and to avoid additional fats such as margarine and butter as well as food that is high in sugar.
In contrast, the other group was told to follow a low-fat diet, based on limiting all kinds of fat, both animal and plant, and increasing their intake of complex carbohydrates.
They were told to cut down on red meat, to choose low-fat dairy products, to avoid eating nuts, and to reduce their intake of sweets and pastries.
The team found that the Mediterranean diet led to better endothelial function, meaning that the arteries were more flexible in adapting to different situations in which greater blood flow is required.
Besides, the endothelium’s ability to regenerate was better and they detected a strong reduction in damage to the endothelium, even in patients at severe risk.
The Mediterranean diet, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, has already been proven to be a good strategy in order to improve endothelial function in overweight patients as well as patients with high cholesterol.
this is the first time that the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet have been shown among patients with heart disease, helping them to reduce the likelihood of having another heart attack.
The researchers say the degree of endothelial damage predicts the occurrence of future cardiovascular events, as in heart attacks.
If doctors can take action at the initial stages, prompting endothelium regeneration and better endothelial function, they can help to prevent heart attacks and heart disease from reoccurring.
One author of the study is José López Miranda.
The study is published in PLOS Medicine.
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