Even today it astounds me that so many people with heart disease are encouraged by their doctors and other health professionals to eat a diet that is simply not founded in research. A new, massive study by the United Nations gets to the heart of the matter, identifying exactly which dietary habits can reduce the risk of dying from heart attack or stroke.
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that took place between 1990 and 2012, the team at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations examined the number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease to determine how dietary factors contributed to these deaths. They found that nearly half of all deaths from heart disease were the result of diet and easily preventable from dietary changes alone. They also found that both a lack of health-building foods and an excess of unhealthy foods were to blame. But, perhaps the most interesting findings were the breakdown of how foods or lack of certain foods contributed to death from heart disease.
MAJOR DIETARY FACTORS FOR DEATH FROM HEART DISEASE
A low intake of nuts and seeds was the leading dietary risk factor for death from cardiovascular disease (CVD), accounting for 11.6 percent of deaths due to CVD.
The second leading risk factor is certainly not as much of a surprise as the others, but equally important to state: The researchers found that the second leading risk factor for death from heart disease was a low intake of vegetables, accounting for 11.5 percent of deaths due to CVD.
The third risk factor, and one that will certainly shock more than a few people following high meat diets that restrict all grains, was a low intake of whole grains, which accounted for 10.4 percent of deaths due to CVD.
The fourth risk factor flies in the face of a lot of information dispersed across the internet right now: excess salt intake was found to be responsible for 9 percent of deaths due to heart disease. I personally have seen blog after blog about salt and sodium, in which the writers indicate that high sodium intake is not a health concern.
However, this massive, long-term study indicates otherwise, linking excess sodium ingestion to the deaths of over 37,350 people in the United States in 2015 alone. That’s a serious problem that resulted in many needless deaths, and certainly not something to be ignored, taken lightly or shrugged off in a well-meaning but misinformed blog.
In an interview with Medical News Today, lead researcher Dr. Afshin stated: “Low intake of healthy foods such as nuts, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits combined with higher intake of unhealthy dietary components, such as salt and trans-fat, is a major contributor to deaths from cardiovascular disease in the United States.” He added: “Our results show that nearly half of cardiovascular disease deaths in the United States can be prevented by improving diet.”
Considering that 415,000 people died from cardiovascular disease in 2015 alone that translates into saving the lives of around 200,000 people annually just by eating more nuts, seeds, vegetables and whole grains, while eating less salt-laden food. While many people continue to search for a miracle cure to cardiovascular disease, it seems like they’re missing the solution that’s sitting right in front of them on their dinner plate.