A heart-healthy diet may help protect people with cardiovascular disease against recurrent strokes and heart attacks.

The finding came from research that was published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation and was funded by Boehringer Ingelheim.

Mahshid Dehghan, Ph.D., researcher of the study and a nutritionist at the Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, said:

“At times, patients don’t think they need to follow a healthy diet since their medications have already lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol – that is wrong. Dietary modification has benefits in addition to those seen with aspirin, angiotensin modulators, lipid-lowering agents and beta blockers.”

The researchers surveyed 31,546 adults (aged 66.5 on average) that either had cardiovascular disease or damage to major organs in order to determine how frequently they drank milk and ate fruits, veggies, meat, fish, grains, and poultry in the previous year. Questions about lifestyles choices, such as exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption, were also asked in the interview.

The amount of fruits, veggies, milk, and grains that were consumed daily, as well as the ratio of fish to meats consumed, determined the total scores. The team discovered, during a five year follow-up, that 5,190 cardiovascular events had occurred among the participants.

Analysis showed that people who consumed a heart-healthy diet experienced a:

Although people in different parts of the world have various food habits, a healthy diet was linked to protection against recurrent cardiovascular disease throughout the world, regardless of a country’s economic level, Dehghan revealed.

The team also discovered that when a person has a diet rich in fruits and veggies, and eats more fish than meat, they receive more protection against heart disease than they do against cancer, injury, or fractures.

This study supports previous research which indicated that an unhealthy diet causes an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Dehghan concluded:

“Physicians should advise their high-risk patients to improve their diet and eat more vegetables, fruits, grains and fish. This could substantially reduce cardiovascular recurrence beyond drug therapy alone and save lives globally.”

Written by Sarah Glynn