Following a healthy diet has been found to be a key component of optimal heart health. Now, experts from the University of Córdoba are encouraging consumers to consider the Mediterranean diet -- which prioritizes fruits and vegetables and healthy fats -- to improve overall heart function.
According to their findings, following the Mediterranean diet can be effective at both boosting cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of a heart attack.
“We observed that the Mediterranean diet model induced better endothelial function, meaning that the arteries were more flexible in adapting to different situations in which greater blood flow is required,” said researcher José López Miranda. “Besides, the endothelium’s ability to regenerate was better and we detected a drastic reduction in damage to the endothelium, even in patients at severe risk.”
The right diet can make a difference
The researchers divided 1,000 participants with heart disease who had experienced a heart attack into two groups to determine which one of two diets was more effective in improving heart health outcomes. One group was instructed to prioritize low-fat foods, which included reducing their consumption of sweets and red meat while also incorporating more carbs. The other group followed the Mediterranean diet, which also eliminates red meat but places an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil.
After one year, the researchers assessed the participants’ heart health based on several different outcomes. They learned that adopting the Mediterranean diet was more effective than the low-fat option in improving overall heart health. It also reduced the participants’ risk of having a subsequent heart attack and reduced lasting damage to the heart by improving overall heart function.
The researchers are excited about these findings because they show that taking action early in the fight against heart disease can have long-term benefits for consumers.
“The degree of endothelial damage predicts the occurrence of future cardiovascular events, as in acute myocardial infarctions,” said López Miranda. “If we can take action at the initial stages, prompting endothelium regeneration and better endothelial function, we can help to prevent heart attacks and heart disease from reoccurring.”