A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reports U.S. women whose diets resemble the traditional Mediterranean diet—high in monounsaturated fat, plant proteins, whole grains and fish—are significantly less likely to develop heart disease and stroke.
Those participating in the Nurses’ Health Study with diets most closely resembling the Mediterranean one—compared to those whose diets least matched it—had a 29 percent reduction in heart disease and a 13 percent reduction in stroke risk. Those following the Mediterranean diets also had a 39 percent reduction in combined heart disease and stroke mortality compared to women who did not.
Researchers analyzed data on nearly 75,000 women ages 38 to 63 (in 1984). During the study’s 20 years of follow-up, they found 2,391 incidences of heart disease, 1,763 strokes and a combined total of 1,077 fatal heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers scored their diets as most closely resembling the Mediterranean diet, although the U.S. food choices differed in many ways from those in southern Italy and Greece, where the diet has been followed traditionally.
Compared to a typical U.S. diet, the Mediterranean diet requires a shift toward a more plant-based diet, which means eating less meat and getting more protein from plant sources like beans and nuts.
The Mediterranean diet consists of high monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil), vegetables, whole grains, fish and limited red meat, refined grains (such as white breads and pasta) and sweets. Proponents say it is easy to follow because there are no extremes, and the foods are readily available.
While the study focused only on women, researchers say men, too, can lower heart disease and stroke risk by following the diet.
Heart disease information
For heart-healthy recipes, or to learn more about heart disease risk factors, symptoms and treatment, visit Western Baptist’s newly re-designed Web site at westernbaptist.com/heart.
You can take a free, five-minute online heart risk survey and become eligible for reduced-cost cardiac screenings at Baptist Prime Care. You also may phone Baptist Health Line at (270) 575-2918.