The father of medicine in ancient Greece, Hippocrates, once said: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates, who lived from 460 BC to 370 BC, was clearly ahead of his time.
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A new study published in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation, has found that a heart-healthy diet can add additional protection from heart attacks and strokes. This is especially true for older patients who have (or are at risk for) cardiovascular heart disease and are taking preventive measures such as aspirin, lipid-lowering agents and medications to lower blood pressure.
So, if you have cardiovascular disease and were dreaming of indulging in a double cheeseburger and fries followed by a Lipitor® chaser, think again. Your best bet is to follow a Mediterranean style diet in addition to sticking to the drug regimen that your doctor prescribes. The study, which included more than 31,000 patients from 40 countries, found that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits with a higher ratio of fish to meats works in tandem with the medications that you take to provide the greatest amount of cardiovascular risk prevention.
While the study researchers found that the types of foods that patients ate varied by country, the prevalence in the United States of inexpensive, high-calorie, high-fat fast food with little nutritional value is a major concern, says Steven Nissen, MD, Department Chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic.
“The availability of fast food, which is cheap and easy to obtain, is very unhealthy,” Dr. Nissen says. “We have adopted a lifestyle that is difficult to change.”
Study researchers followed patients for five years. During that time, 5,190 cardiovascular events occurred. The researchers found that patients who ate a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet had:
- 35 percent less risk for cardiovascular death;
- 14 percent less risk for new heart attacks;
- 28 percent less risk for congestive heart failure;
- 19 percent less risk for stroke.
A. Marc Gillinov, MD, cardiac surgeon in Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute, says the Mediterranean diet is a good approach because it’s not only healthy, it’s sustainable in the long-term. “Whether low-fat or low-carb, extreme diets aren’t the answer to making artery plaques melt away,” he says. “Heart patients who place complete trust in fad diets will discard scientifically proven life-saving therapies.”
Stay tuned for recipe ideas coming later today on how to make your holiday meals Mediterranean.