According to a new review published in The BMJ, following a Mediterranean or low-fat dietary program can strongly reduce the likelihood of death and heart attack in people at risk of heart disease.
The review was the first comparative analysis based on randomized trials of seven different dietary programs, including low fat, Mediterranean, very low fat, modified fat, combined low fat and low sodium, Ornish, and Pritikin.
Current guidelines suggest different dietary programs for people with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but these recommendations have been largely based on low-certainty evidence from non-randomized studies.
The recent review aims to address this issue by looking at randomized trials to evaluate the impact of different dietary programs on death and major cardiovascular events in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
The researchers reviewed 40 trials involving 35,548 participants who were followed for an average of three years across the seven named dietary programs.
Thirteen trials were deemed to be at low overall risk of bias, while 27 were judged to be at high risk.
The review found that following a Mediterranean dietary program was more effective than minimal intervention in preventing all-cause death non-fatal heart attack, and stroke for patients at intermediate risk of heart disease.
Similarly, low-fat programs were found to be superior to minimal intervention in preventing all-cause mortality and non-fatal heart attack.
Comparing the two dietary programs, the review found no significant difference in terms of mortality or non-fatal heart attack prevention.
However, the absolute effects for both programs were more significant for people at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
The review also found that the other five dietary programs reviewed, including very low fat, modified fat, combined low fat and low sodium, Ornish, and Pritikin, generally had little or no benefit compared to minimal intervention.
The findings of this review are significant because cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.
Following a Mediterranean or low-fat dietary program could potentially save many lives and improve the quality of life for those at risk of cardiovascular disease.
How to eat to prevent heart attacks
Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally, but it is largely preventable by making certain lifestyle choices.
One of the most important factors in preventing heart attacks is adopting a healthy diet. Here are some tips on how to eat to prevent heart attacks:
Emphasize plant-based foods: Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal. These foods are packed with nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants that are good for your heart.
Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables also helps to ensure that you get all the different types of nutrients that your body needs.
Choose whole grains: Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread and pasta are packed with fiber, which can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Choose whole-grain options instead of refined grains like white bread and white rice.
Reduce your intake of red meat: Eating too much red meat, particularly processed meats like bacon and sausage, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Choose lean protein sources such as chicken, fish, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) instead.
Cut back on saturated and trans fats: Saturated and trans fats can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of heart disease.
Limit your intake of butter, cheese, and fatty meats, and choose healthier fats such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts instead.
Limit your salt intake: Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Aim to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is about one teaspoon of salt.
Watch your portion sizes: Eating too much, even of healthy foods, can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease. Use smaller plates, eat slowly, and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness signals to help you control your portions.
Drink alcohol in moderation: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase your blood pressure and raise your risk of heart disease.
If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. For women, this means no more than one drink per day, and for men, no more than two drinks per day.
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The study was published in The BMJ.
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