In a new study from the University of California, Irvine, researchers found eating patterns similar to the Mediterranean diet and the blood pressure-lowering DASH may help older women with Type 2 diabetes ward off heart attacks, strokes and related problems.
Diabetes afflicts one-quarter of Americans 65 and older. An estimated 68% of these patients will die of heart disease, and 16% will die of stroke.
The new study focused on data from the Women’s Health Initiative, a massive long-term project exploring disease prevention in postmenopausal women.
It included more than 5,800 women who developed diabetes as adults but reported no cardiovascular disease at the project’s outset.
The researchers scored detailed food questionnaires from the women according to how closely their responses fit each of four dietary patterns.
Three patterns – an “alternate” Mediterranean diet, adapted for Western tastes; the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension, or DASH.
American Diabetes Association recommendations – all advocate eating more fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains and some dairy, and less added sugars and red and processed meat.
The fourth pattern, a Paleolithic-style diet, emphasizes meat, fruit, nuts, greens and other vegetables, and discourages consumption of grains, dairy, added sugars and alcohol.
The researchers tracked new heart disease in women over an average of 12.4 years. About 11% developed heart disease, and more than 6% had a stroke.
They found women whose scores were among the highest for the DASH diet were 31% less likely to develop cardiovascular problems than those with the lowest scores.
Those with the highest scores for the ADA guidance and the Mediterranean-style diet had 29% and 23% lower risk, respectively.
The study found no link between a high paleo score and a risk that was either lower or higher.
These findings support current dietary-related clinical practice recommendations for populations with Type 2 diabetes as being one approach to improve cardiovascular risk.
The team says for people in general, diets should include more vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, lean protein and fish, with less saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, according to guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association.
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The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. One author of the study is Andrew Odegaard.
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