Healthy diet trumps medication use alone for preventing second heart attack

Credit: Morguefile

Patients who have had a heart attack or stroke are put on a variety of medications to prevent recurrence. Results of a new study show eating a heart healthy diet further lowers a person’s chances of a second stroke or heart attack that goes beyond what medication alone can do to boost cardiovascular health.

Authors for the study suggest patients with heart disease often rely on their medicines to keep their blood pressures lower and cholesterol levels intact.

But the study authors say relying on medication use alone is “wrong”. Changing your diet can have additional benefits that can lower your chances of dying from heart disease significantly.

Eating a heart healthy diet can significantly reduce your chances of a second heart attack or stroke, shown in one of the first studies of its kind.

McMaster University researchers found people who ate plenty of fruits and vegetables and low animal fat diet:

  • ·         Lowered their risk of dying from heart disease by 35 percent
  • ·         Reduced their risk for new heart attack by 14 percent
  • ·         Had a 28 percent lower chance of congestive heart failure
  • ·         Experienced a 19 percent reduction in stroke risk

The study included 2,000 patients whose average age was 66.5 years; from 40 countries.

The findings were based on data from two major McMaster University-led global studies: ONTARGET, and TRANSCEND.

Participants were asked about their dietary intake of fruits, vegetables, milk, grains, fish, nuts, meat and poultry over the past year. Activity levels, alcohol and tobacco use were also assessed.

A heart healthy diet was considered high intake of fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables as opposed to eggs, poultry and meat.

Consuming a heart healthy diet was associated with a 20 percent overall lower risk of cardiovascular disease in all regions of the world with ‘consistent benefits’ that trumped medications for preventing heart disease and stroke that kills 17.3 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization.

The study’s lead author and nutritionist at McMaster University’s Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) says the finding shows eating a heart healthy diet has added benefits for heart attack and stroke prevention for patients taking aspirin, cholesterol lowering medicines and other heart medications.

“Physicians should advise their high-risk patients to improve their diet and eat more vegetables, fruits, grains and fish,” Dehghan said in a press release. “This could substantially reduce cardiovascular recurrence beyond drug therapy alone and save lives globally.”

The finding showed that though medications are crucial for heart disease treatment, patients can lower their chances of another heart attack or stroke by 20 percent by simply focusing on eating plenty of fish, grains, nuts and fruits and vegetables as opposed to eating meat, poultry and eggs.

The new study suggests a heart healthy diet has benefits that extend beyond medications to prevent recurring stroke and heart attack.

December 3, 2012