Scientists from Mayo Clinic found that plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of heart failure in adults without known heart disease, while Southern diets consisting of more fried and processed foods and sweetened drinks are associated with greater risk.
The research is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and was conducted by Kyla Lara et al.
Heart failure affects more than 5.7 million adults and that number is expected to rise.
Heart failure prevention strategies currently emphasize quitting smoking, managing high blood pressure and maintaining a healthy diet and weight to prevent heart disease.
In the study, the team looked at the association between five dietary patterns and risk of heart failure.
The researchers tested 16,608 adults aged 45 years old and older. Participants were sent a 150-question survey based on 107 food items, which were categorized into the five pre-determined diets:
- “Convenience” (heavily meat dishes, pasta, Mexican dishes, pizza and fast food)
- “Plant-based” (vegetables, fruit, beans and fish)
- “Sweets/fats” (heavy on desserts, bread, sweet breakfast foods, chocolate and other sugar)
- “Southern” (heavy on fried food, processed meats, eggs, added fats and sugar-sweetened beverages)
- “Alcohol/salads” (heavy on wine, liquor, beer, leafy greens and salad dressing)
After 8.7 years of follow up on average, there were 363 new heart failure hospitalizations.
The team saw a 41 percent lower risk of new heart failure hospitalization for participants who were most adherent to the plant-based diet, compared to the least adherent.
The highest adherence to the Southern diet was associated with a 72 percent higher risk of heart failure hospitalization.
However, when the Southern diet was adjusted for BMI, waist circumference, high blood pressure and other factors, the association was no longer strong.
The team said this could mean that the Southern dietary pattern could increase heart failure risk through factors such as obesity and excess abdominal fat, among the other adjusting factors.
Researchers also looked at incident heart failure stratified by heart failure subgroups.
There were 133 cases of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction and 157 cases of heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.
These findings support a population-based dietary strategy for lowering the risk of incident heart failure.
The team says heart failure prevention should be prioritized considering how difficult it is to treat, the severe debility heart failure patients experience and the high cost of heart failure care.
If you care about heart failure, please read studies about aspirin linked to higher risk of heart failure, and this diabetes drug can reduce death in heart failure.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about best blood sugar levels to prevent strokes, heart attacks, and results showing this antioxidant drug may protect against stroke and heart attack.
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