A new study suggests that consumption of a mainly plant-based diet was related to decreased heart failure risks among people without known heart failure or heart disease. Heart failure is a progressive chronic condition that occurs when the heart muscle does not pump enough blood to meet the body’s requirements for oxygen and blood. It affects approximately 6.5 million people over 20 years old in the United States.
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Previous studies have indicated that people’s dietary pattern plays a vital role in increasing or reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by a gradual narrowing of the arteries, resulting in heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.
Kyla Lara, M.D., lead author of the study and an internal resident at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has stated that:
Eating a diet mostly of dark green leafy plants, fruits, beans, whole grains and fish, while limiting processed meats, saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and foods high in added sugars is a heart-healthy lifestyle and may specifically help prevent heart failure if you don’t already have it.”
The researchers utilized data from a a nationwide observational study of stroke risk factors in people aged above 45, called “Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke” (REGARDS). Overall participants, who were involved from 2003 to 2007 and followed through to 2013, included 15,569 patients without previously diagnosed heart failure or coronary artery disease.
Occurrences of heart failure within this group of patients were confirmed by physicians. 300 incidences of hospitalizations due to incident heart failure were recorded over the almost 3000 days of follow-up.
Patients involved in the REGARDS study reported their dietary patterns through a food frequency questionnaire – a usual method for diet classification, which involves statistical modeling in assigning a patient’s diet to one of the following five dietary patterns: (a) Convenience (fast foods, fried potatoes, red meats, and pastas); (b) Plant-based diet (beans, fruits, and leafy vegetables); (c) Sweets (chocolate, desserts, sweet breakfast diet, breads, and candy); (d) Southern (sugar-sweetened beverages, fried food, processed meat, and eggs); and (e) Alcohol/salads (liquor, wine, salad dressings, butter, leafy vegetables, green, and tomatoes).
The researchers identified that of the above discussed five dietary patterns, the plant-based dietary pattern was found to be greatly linked to a 42% reduced risk of incident heart failure over the four years of the study after being adjusted for race, sex, age of patients, and other risk factors. Other dietary patterns, such as convenience, sweets, Southern, or salads/alcohol style, were not related to the reduced risk of heart failure.