According to a new study, women who follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to experience events such as heart attacks or strokes, or to die prematurely.
Doctors have long recommended a Mediterranean diet as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Now, a new study provides fresh evidence that this eating pattern can help women in particular lower their risk of developing cardiovascular disease or dying young. For the analysis, the researchers extracted data from more than 720,000 women who participated in 16 previously published studies on the link between heart disease and diet. According to study results published in the journal Heart, women who followed a Mediterranean-style diet most closely were 24% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and 23% less likely to die prematurely from all causes. confused.
There is no one-size-fits-all diet, but certain heart-healthy foods and nutrients may make the Mediterranean diet especially beneficial for reducing the risk of future cardiovascular events.
Diet plays a critical role in preventing cardiovascular events and early death. Poor diet is linked to many lifestyle risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, all of which can significantly increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
The Mediterranean diet also appears to have a similar protective effect for women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. When researchers looked at studies of predominantly white European women, the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 24% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular events, compared to 21% in studies of women from other parts of the world. world and of different racial or ethnic origins.
One of the limitations of the study is that the small studies included in the review were based on reported eating habits, making it possible that people may not accurately recall or report in which extent they ate a Mediterranean-style diet, notes the study team. These studies are observational in nature, so it may not just be the diet, but other things the women were doing that made them less likely to have cardiovascular events.
Nonetheless, the findings are in line with other dietary research that advocates a Mediterranean diet as a heart-healthy way of eating that may reduce the risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The characteristics of a Mediterranean diet are:
lots of whole fruits and vegetables
nuts and legumes
healthy fats like olive oil
regular consumption of fish and seafood
moderate consumption of dairy products such as cheese and yogurt
little or no consumption of red meat and processed meat.
Such a heart-healthy diet is especially important for women after menopause, when the risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Even small changes in favor of a diet based on vegetables and fruits can make a difference
Every little bit counts, though, and people who aren’t ready to give up red meat or switch to a mostly plant-based diet can still reap heart-health benefits by changing their eating habits slightly.
The following changes are a good starting point:
Replace animal fats with extra virgin olive oil.
Eat whole-grain bread, pasta, or rice instead of white bread or heavily processed cereals.
Drink unsweetened tea, coffee or water instead of sugary drinks.
Eat more seafood and lean protein rather than red or processed meat.
Although it is not possible for most people to make all of these changes overnight, small incremental changes over time can still make a big difference in improving diet quality and long-term cardiometabolic health.
How to maintain good heart health?
Beyond what people eat, how much they eat also affects heart health. Even as part of a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet, it’s important to get enough calories, but not too many, to maintain a healthy weight and get the most health benefits. Specifically, eating foods in a healthy pattern can help people maintain a healthy weight and healthy levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood fat cholesterol. Other pillars of a heart-healthy lifestyle are frequent physical activity, not smoking, and optimal sleep.