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Mediterranean Diet Can Protect Heart Patients Against Heart Attack, Stroke

Apr 25, 2016 12:46 PM EDT
Aspects Of The Mediterranean Diet
A meal of fried sardines with tehina sauce, fresh pita, a cucumber and tomato salad, olives and pickles is served in a restaurant in the local produce market February 22, 2006 in Netanya in central Israel. Fish, which the American Heart Association says have important health benefits, is a regular feature on regional menus. The Mediterranean diet, a term used to broadly describe the eating habits of the people of the area, is widely believed to be responsible for the low rates of chronic heart disease in the populations of the 16 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
(Photo : David Silverman/Getty Images)

Many researches in the past have already proven the health benefits of the so-called Mediterranean Diet, but a new study shows that eating lots of fish, plenty of fruits and vegetables, portions of whole grains, and very little meat, can also help people with heart disease prevent heart attack and stroke.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, reveals that people diagnosed with stable coronary artery disease who practice a Mediterranean diet or have lesser intake of a "Western" Diet, have three to five percent less risk of having a heart attack or stroke as compared to those people who have greater intakes of refined grains, sweets, desserts, sugary drinks and deep-fried food.

For the study, 15,482 older adults with heart disease from 39 countries were given questionnaires asking about their diet. Researchers then categorized their answers as either Mediterranean or Western.

Over the course of the study, a total of 1,588 (10.1%) of the study participants experienced major adverse cardiovascular events, which includes heart attack, stroke and death. Among people with more than 15 Mediterranean diet score, only 7.3 percent of 2,885 suffered major adverse cardiovascular events. This is relatively low compared to 10.8% of 8,579 people with Mediterranean diet score of 12 or lower.

"After adjusting for other factors that might affect the results, we found that every one unit increase in the Mediterranean Diet Score was associated with a seven percent reduction in the risk of heart attacks, strokes or death from cardiovascular or other causes in patients with existing heart disease," said Professor Ralph Stewart, from Auckland City Hospital, University of Auckland, New Zealand, who led the study, in a statement.

The researchers also found out that focusing on eating more healthy foods is more effective in preventing heart attack and stroke than avoiding unhealthy foods.

"In contrast, greater consumption of foods thought to be less healthy and more typical of Western diets, was not associated with an increase in these adverse events, which we had not expected," Professor Stewart added.

According to the report from the Guardian, the researchers also emphasize that the study is purely observational and no causal relationship can be formed between Mediterranean diets, heart attack and stroke. The study is also based on self-reporting. There is no food sample size given to the participants. The researchers also did not examine the total calorie nor the types of fat the participants consumed during the study.

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