Your diet and your heart attack risk

November 12, 2008 by  

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You are what you eat. And this study indicates that diet can determine the risk of heart attacks – in a global scale.So what’s your typical diet?

Canadian researchers at McMaster University reported in the Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association their results after studying the dietary patterns and heart attack rates in 52 countries. And it’s bad news for the Western diet.

The researchers could group dietary patterns in the world into three categories, namely:

  • The oriental diet is characterized by higher intake of tofu, soy and other sauces;
  • The prudent diet is characterized by higher intake of fruits and vegetables; and
  • The Western diet is characterized by higher intake of fried foods, salty snacks, eggs and meat.

“The objective of this study was to understand the modifiable risk factors of heart attacks at a global level” according to lead researcher Salim Yusuf.

A long term study on diet and heart disease risks conducted on a global scale is not feasible in terms of costs and logistics. However, the researchers came up with a feasible alternative. It entailed interviewing heart attack patients in different countries using a questionnaire which included a dietary risk scores.

The data analyzed was part of the INTERHEART study. It documented the relationship of various risk factors and heart attack risks in more than 16,000 people in 52 countries. The Canadian study analyzed 5,761 cases of heart attack and compared them to 10,646 people without known heart disease used as study controls.

The results can be summarized as follows, after adjusting for known risk factors:

Now, you may ask, where does the so-called Mediterranean diet fit in?

Unfortunately, it seems that this diet, which complied with the World Health’s Organization’s (WHO) nutritional recommendations supposedly the most well-suited diet for cardiovascular health, is longer what it used to be, according to this report in the International Herald Tribune.

The traditional diet which is rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, olive oil and a bit of wine consumed on a daily basis is all but non-existent. It has been replaced by fast food rich in red meat, poultry, and trans fat.

The fact is that the Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with longer life spans and lower rates of heart disease and cancer, is in retreat in its home region. Today it is more likely to be found in the upscale restaurants of London and New York than among the young generation in places like Greece, where two-thirds of children are now overweight and the health effects are mounting,” the report continues.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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