A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish significantly reduces the risk of a second heart attack and stroke in people with cardiovascular disease, suggests a new US study.
To investigate the potential benefits of a healthy diet in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the 56-month-long prospective cohort study documented food intake and cases of myocardial infarc-tion, stroke, congestive heart failure, and related death of 31,546 women and men above 54 years in age, who had been diagnosed with CVD or diabetes mellitus and received proven medications (1). The study results showed that patients with a higher-quality diet benefited from significant reductions in the risk for CV death, myocardial infarction (14%), stroke (19%), and related death (35%). Higher-quality diet was defined by a more frequent intake of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and a higher intake of fish relative to meat, poultry, and eggs. The preventive effect was consistent regardless of the type or combination of medication that the patients received (e.g., antiplatelet agents, statins, angiotensin modu-lators, and beta-blockers).
The researchers commented that they observed a strong association between diet quality and the recurrence of CVD events in patients from high- and middle-income countries in different regions of the world. These findings are consistent with several other studies assessing diets in primary prevention of major chronic diseases (2, 3). They are also compatible with the few existing studies that assessed the Mediterranean diet, diet quality, and the secondary prevention of cardiovascular events (4, 5) albeit in isolated geographic regions. In these studies, multiple mechanisms have been suggested to play a role in the protective effect of a high-quality diet, including vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids and their beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk factors, inflammatory processes, and oxidative stress.
The scientists concluded that highlighting the importance of healthy eating by health professionals and advi-sing high-risk individuals to improve their diet quality could substantially reduce CVD recurrence beyond drug therapy alone and save lives globally.