Heart-healthy diet may reduce recurrent stroke, MI risk

Eating a "heart-healthy" diet may lower the risk for recurrent cardiovascular disease (CVD) events in middle-aged individuals with a history of such conditions, researchers report.

"These associations were observed in people receiving proven drug therapies for secondary prevention, suggesting that dietary modification may have benefits in addition to those seen with aspirin, angiotensin modulators, lipid-lowering agents, and beta blockers," say Mahshid Dehghan (Hamilton General Hospital, Ontario, Canada) and co-investigators.

A heart-healthy diet is one that is high in fruit, vegetables, and grains, and has a high ratio of fish-to-meat, add the researchers.

As reported in Circulation, 31,546 individuals, aged a mean of 66.5 years, who had a history of CVD or Type 2 diabetes with end-organ damage, completed diet and lifestyle questionnaires.

All participants were asked how often they consumed vegetables, fruits, grains, fish, poultry, meat, milk, and alcohol in the 12 months preceding study enrollment.

Each participant was then given a dietary score using the modified Alternative Healthy Eating Index and the Diet Risk Score dietary tools.

A total of 5190 CVD events occurred among the group over a 56-month follow-up period.

When participants were arranged into quintiles based on dietary quality, Dehghan and team found that those in the top quintile (most heart-healthy diet) had a 14% lower risk for new myocardial infarction than those in the bottom quintile.

And the risk for stroke, congestive heart failure, and CVD-related death was 14-35% lower among individuals in the top versus bottom quintile.

No association was observed between diet and risk for cancer, fractures, injuries, and non-CVD-related hospitalization.

This, say Dehghan and colleagues, indicates that the association noted between diet and CVD risk is "not due to confounding by lifestyle factors or poor health."

They therefore conclude: "Highlighting the importance of healthy eating by health professionals and advising high-risk individuals to improve their diet quality would substantially reduce CVD recurrence beyond drug therapy alone and save lives globally."

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