American researchers have found by analyzing more than thirty years’ worth of data that any type of healthy diet can reduce one’s risk of heart-related diseases by up to 20%. This is contradictory to the widely held belief that one must strictly adhere to only a specific type of diet to get the same result.
Shutterbug75/Pixabay: Healthy diet for a healthy heart
The widespread study had a massive sample size of 20,000 participants. Those who had healthy eating habits were found to have a lowered risk of heart disease by up to 21%. Cardiovascular disease, by far, claims the most lives worldwide.
What Constituted a Healthy Diet?
Vegan or vegetarian diets were both popular picks and involved soy-based substitutes for meat products. The ‘Mediterranean’ diet was also a popular choice and involved cutting carbohydrates in favor of lean meat, proteins, vegetables, and fruits.
Frank Hu, who chairs the Nutrition department in the acclaimed Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, also the co-author on the paper, states that diets cannot be ‘one size fits all.’ Every individual has unique nutritional needs – let alone tastes and preferences – and hence the onus falls on each person to customize their own diet.
The study was one of few that have looked into how adhering to certain recommended healthy eating habits could have a long-term impact on an individual’s risk of heart disease or blood vessels’ disease. These illnesses fall under the umbrella term of ‘cardiovascular disease.’
Risk Factor of Cardiovascular Diseases
The most common type of cardiovascular disease involves the formation of fatty blockages in an individual’s arteries. This narrows the arteries, increasing the strain on the heart to pump harder to get blood through the tight space.
pathdoc/Shutterstock: Avoid risk of cardiovascular diseases by eating all things healthy
Not only does this increase one’s risk of suffering from a heart attack, but it also increases related risks of ruptured blood vessels.
In terms of methodology, Hu’s team developed a scoring system that recorded diets based on four different categories. As a step further, beyond just arbitrary classifications, it took into account participants’ consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
Participants were down-scored for excessive consumption of processed food and sugary drinks.
Tapping onto a wide participation base comprising men and women who had signed up to be studied in Harvard’s many research projects looking into risks for chronic illnesses, the study was able to amass data from up to 20,000 people.
Every couple of years, participants were requested to fill out a questionnaire detailing their dietary habits down to how much of each food group they consumed. Their answers were translated into scores.The results were adjusted to account for a variety of factors, including age, genetic risk, and lifestyle habits.
Finally, the scores were compared to the participants’ predisposition to cardiovascular disease.
In general, it was found that participants with a higher score – that is, healthier eating habits – were found to be at a lower risk for cardiovascular disease. In fact, those who placed in the top 25% of the scores were up to 21% less likely to contract a heart-related disease compared to those in the bottom 25%.
This held true across all races and ethnicity, and similar correlations were found for other life-threatening diseases like stroke.
RossHelen/Shutterstock: Keep yourself happy and healthy with no diet plan
The research concludes that one need not stick strictly to a certain type of diet, especially those marketed specifically as preventing heart disease, to achieve the same results. Instead, simply following healthy eating habits consistently can go a long way in keeping cardiovascular disease at bay.