How to live longer: Best diet to reduce risk of cardiovascular death

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Long life expectancy has largely been attributed to eating a healthy diet – eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day, eating plenty of fibre, eating some dairy or dairy alternatives, some protein, and choosing unsaturated oils and spreads and eating them in small amounts. But with so many healthy diets to choose from, which one is considered best when it comes to life expectancy? New research this month has added to mounting evidence eating a plant-based diet can help people live longer.

The research found eating more plant based foods can contribute to a healthy heart and cardiovascular system and reduce the risk of cardiovascular death.

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study examined data from 12,168 middle aged people who had enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, and the participants were followed between 1987 and 2016.

The researchers in the latest study used four diet indexes, and the findings revealed participants who had the highest intake of plant based foods were 16 per cent less likely to have a cardiovascular condition, such as heart attack, stroke or heart failure, than adults who consumed the smallest amount of plant based foods.

High plant food consumers were 25 per cent less likely to die from any cause and had a 32 per cent lower is of during from a cardiovascular condition.

Casey M. Rebholz, assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and lead researcher, said: “While you don’t have to give up foods derived from animals completely, our study does suggest that eating a larger proportion of plant based foods and a smaller proportion of animal based foods may help reduce your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other type of cardiovascular disease.”

In a review published last year in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, scientists focused on the benefits of a plant-based diet on cardiovascular health. 

Researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington D.C. looked at relevant studies over recent years.

Collating information from many clinical trials and observational studies, they found a plant-based diet was consistently linked with good heart health.

They concluded individuals who followed a plant-based diet:

  • Had a 40 per cent reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Had a 40 per cent reduced risk of coronary heart disease
  • Had a 34 per cent reduced risk of hypertension

Cholesterol levels were also found to be lower in vegetarians than non-vegetarians, and a plant-based diet was also shown to help achieve weight loss.

It was also noted more healthful diets and lifestyles lower the risk of heart attack by 81 to 94 per cent.

Coronary heart disease is a major cause of death both in the UK and worldwide, according to the NHS.

The health body explains: “Coronary heart disease is the term that describes what happens when your heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries.

“Over time, the walls of your arteries can become furred up with fatty deposits. This process is known as atherosclerosis and the fatty deposits are called atheroma.”

Atherosclerosis can be caused by lifestyle factors and other conditions, including high cholesterol.

Alongside a plant-based diet, and to reduce high cholesterol, experts advise cutting down on fatty food, especially because it contains a type of fat called saturated fat which considered bad.

When it comes to preventing another serious heart condition – heart attack – experts recommend eating the following six foods. 

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