Heart attack happens when a blockage in a person’s coronary artery causes part of their heart muscle to be starved of blood and oxygen. A heart attack requires immediate medical attention to avert the risk of permanent damage being done to the heart muscle. Fortunately, as the condition is strongly tied to unhealthy lifestyle decisions, steps can be taken to keep the risk of a heart attack at bay. Evidence suggests eating certain foods can help ward off the threat – here are five such foods.
Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fat and contain little saturated fat
Dr Noushin Mohammadifard, study author
Eating nuts at least twice a week is associated with a 17 per cent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to research presented today at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology.
“Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fat and contain little saturated fat,” said study author Dr Noushin Mohammadifard of Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Institute, Iran.
Dr Noushin added: “They also have protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre, phytosterols, and polyphenols which benefit heart health. European and US studies have related nuts with cardiovascular protection but there is limited evidence from the Eastern Mediterranean Region.”
This study examined the association between nut consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death in the Iranian population.
A total of 5,432 adults aged 35 and older with no history of cardiovascular disease were randomly selected from urban and rural areas of the Isfahan, Arak and Najafabad counties.
Intake of nuts including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, and seeds was assessed in 2001 with a validated food frequency questionnaire.
Eating nuts two or more times per week was associated with a 17 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular mortality compared to consuming nuts once every two weeks. The connection was robust even after adjusting for factors that could influence the relationship such as age, sex, education, smoking, and physical activity.
“Raw fresh nuts are the healthiest,” added Dr Mohammadifard. “Nuts should be fresh because unsaturated fats can become oxidised in stale nuts, making them harmful. You can tell if nuts are rancid by their paint-like smell and bitter or sour taste.”
Eating mostly plant-based foods and fewer animal-based foods may also ward off the threat of cardiovascular disease, according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
“While you don’t have to give up foods derived from animals completely, our study does suggest that eating a larger proportion of plant-based foods and a smaller proportion of animal-based foods may help reduce your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other type of cardiovascular disease,” said lead researcher, Casey M. Rebholz, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.
Researchers reviewed a database of food intake information from more than 10,000 middle-aged U.S. adults who were monitored from 1987 through 2016 and did not have cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. They then categorised the participants’ eating patterns by the proportion of plant-based foods they ate versus animal-based foods.
Overall, people who ate the most plant-based foods overall had a 16 per cent lower risk of having a cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks, stroke, heart failure and other conditions. They also had a 32 per cent lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease and a 25 per cent lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who ate the least amount of plant-based foods.
Eating a cup of blueberries a day may also keep the threat at bay, according to findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study showed that eating 150g of blueberries daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15 per cent.
The research team from UEA’s Department of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, Norwich Medical School, say that blueberries and other berries should be included in dietary strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – particularly among at risk groups.
The team investigated the effects of eating blueberries daily in 138 overweight and obese people, aged between 50 and 75, with Metabolic Syndrome. The six-month study was the longest trial of its kind.
They looked at the benefits of eating 150 gram portions (one cup) compared to 75 gram portions (half a cup). The participants consumed the blueberries in freeze-dried form and a placebo group was given a purple-coloured alternative made of artificial colours and flavourings.
Co-lead, Dr Peter Curtis, said: “We found that eating one cup of blueberries per day resulted in sustained improvements in vascular function and arterial stiffness – making enough of a difference to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by between 12 and 15 per cent.
According to research published in the journal Heart, eating an egg a day may lower a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study was conducted over nine years and followed more than 400,000 adults in China.
The findings revealed that daily egg eaters had an 18 per cent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, which manifests as heart attacks and strokes, compared with adults who avoided eggs.
Based on the results, Yu said, eating eggs in moderation – less than one a day – is associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases.
Eating yoghurt may also stave off the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A study in the American Journal of Hypertension, published by Oxford University Press, suggests that higher yogurt intake is associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk among hypertensive men and women.
For the analyses, participants included over 55,000 women (ages 30-55) with high blood pressure from the Nurses’ Health Study and 18,000 men (ages 40-75) who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.
In both groups, participants consuming more than two servings a week of yogurt had an approximately 20 percent lower risks of major coronary heart disease or stroke during the follow-up period.
Higher yogurt intake in combination with an overall heart-healthy diet was associated with greater reductions in cardiovascular disease risk among hypertensive men and women.
“We hypothesised that long-term yogurt intake might reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems since some previous small studies had shown beneficial effects of fermented dairy products,” said one of the paper’s authors, Justin Buendia.
Buendia added: ”Here, we had a very large cohort of hypertensive men and women, who were followed for up to 30 years. Our results provide important new evidence that yogurt may benefit heart health alone or as a consistent part of a diet rich in fibre-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.”
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