Study underscores link between lifestyle and heart disease

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Death, Myocardial infarction, Nutrition

A new study out of Sweden has brought about some results that are
hardly surprising, yet underscore that health is very much linked
to a personal lifestyle commitment.

According to the large scale study - published in the Archives of Internal Medicine​ and stemming from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden - the daily consumption of vegetables and fruit combined with a diet consisting of wholegrain products, fish, beans and small amounts of alcohol can more than halve the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The study goes to show the extent to which the message is not being received by Americans, or is being ignored. And if food manufacturers want to appear committed to the health of their consumers, they have a tough task ahead of them. "If all women lived like the healthy group, 75 percent of heart attacks would be prevented,"​ said researcher Agneta Åkesson. Americans are a high-risk group for heart disease, with about 64 percent of all US adults are overweight, 30 percent of whom are obese, according to the US Food & Drug Administration. Overeating and sedentary lifestyles have been identified as indisputable contributing factors to the nation's high death rate from heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease claimed 910,614 lives in 2003 - or 37.3 percent of all deaths. This is almost double the entire death toll for all forms of cancer in the same year. As part of the Karolinska Institutet study, the researchers analyzed the eating habits of 25,000 Swedish women and found two specific dietary patterns that correlate significantly with a healthy heart. They claim what is new about their research is that they have mapped out the women's dietary habits instead of deciding in advance the kind of food they wanted to examine. As such, they say they were able to identify two specific dietary patterns that were clearly linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. "The first was characterised by a high consumption of vegetables and fruit, and the second by the moderate consumption of alcohol; we're talking about the equivalent of four vegetables and two pieces of fruit a day and half a glass of wine,"​ said Åkesson. The study was based on data from 25,000 women as part of the Swedish Mammography Cohort. These women were born between 1914 and 1948, and have been monitored since 1997 for their chances of suffering a myocardial infarction. Source: Åkesson, Agneta et al. "Combined Effect of Low-Risk Dietary and Lifestyle Behaviours in Primary Prevention of Myocardial Infarction in Women." Archives of Internal Medicine​, vol 167, no 19, 22 October 2007.

Related topics: Cardiovascular health

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