Saturday, June 13, 2009

Diet reduces heart attacks, strokes

A new study in the US offers strongest evidence a diet recommended for lowering blood pressure can save people from heart attack and stroke.

Researchers say they pursued more than 88,000 healthy women for almost 25 years, examining their food choices and seeing how many suffered from heart attacks and strokes.

Those who fared best had eating habits similar to those recommended by the government to stop high blood pressure.

The women followed the recommended plan, called the DASH diet, of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and plant-based protein over meat.

Women with those eating habits were 24 percent less likely to have a heart attack and 18 percent less likely to have a stroke than women with more typical American diets, Associated Press reported.

Women in the study were in their mid-30s to late 50s when the research began in 1980. Previous research has shown this kind of diet can help prevent high blood pressure and cholesterol, which both can lead to heart attacks.

People might think, "I don't have high blood pressure, so I don't have to follow it," said Simmons College researcher Teresa Fung, the study's lead author. However, the results suggest, she said, that "even healthy people should get on it."

About 15,000 women in the study had diets that closely resembled the low blood pressure diet. They ate about twice as many fruits, vegetables and grains as the estimated 18,000 women whose diets more closely resembled typical American eating habits.