Globally, heart diseases are among the most fatal causes of threat to life, but studies are showing that we don’t just have to accept that threat as being inevitable.
According to recent research published in the journals of the European Society of Cardiology and the European Heart Journal – Quality of Care and Clinical Outcomes (ESC), more than two-thirds of heart disease fatalities could be avoided on a global scale if people would change their diets to be more healthful. Coincidentally these findings were released on World Food Day to help emphasize the importance of healthy meals that are accessible to all as well as being sustainable.
“Our analysis shows that unhealthy diets, high blood pressure, and high serum cholesterol are the top three contributors to deaths from heart attacks and angina – collectively called ischaemic heart disease,” said study author Dr. Xinyao Liu of Central South University, Changsha, China, adding, “This was consistent in both developed and developing countries.”
“More than six million deaths could be avoided by reducing intake of processed foods, sugary beverages, trans and saturated fats, and added salt and sugar, while increasing intake of fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Ideally, we should eat 200 to 300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids from seafood each day. On top of that, every day we should aim for 200 to 300 grams of fruit, 290 to 430 grams of vegetables, 16 to 25 grams of nuts, and 100 to 150 grams of whole grains,” she added.
The team of researchers analyzed data from the 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study which was conducted between 1990-2017 in 195 countries to reveal that there were 126.5 million people living with ischaemic heart disease as well as 10.6 million new diagnoses with the condition causing 8.9 million deaths in 2017, and this represents 16% of all death compared to 12.6% in 1990.
During that time the age-standardized prevalence rate per 100,000 people decreased by 11.8%, the incidence rate decreased by 27.4%, and the death rates decreased by 30%, however, the absolute numbers also doubles according to the researchers.
Dr. Liu said: “While progress has been made in preventing heart disease and improving survival, particularly in developed countries, the numbers of people affected continues to rise because of population growth and ageing.”
The team of researchers also calculated the impact of 11 risk factors on death from ischaemic heart disease, specifically estimating the proportion of deaths that could be stopped by eliminating that risk factor. These risk factors were: tobacco use, alcohol use, impaired kidney function, high BMI, low physical activity, lead exposure, high serum LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, high plasma glucose, air pollution, and diet.
According to the researchers, assuming all other risk factors remained unchanged an impressive 69.2% of global deaths from ischaemic heart disease could be prevented if people adopted more healthful diets, 54.4% of deaths could be avoided if systolic blood pressure was kept at 110-115 mmHg, 41.9% of deaths could be stopped if serum LDL was kept at 0.7-1.3mmol/L, 25.5% could be avoided is serum fasting plasma glucose was kept at 4.8-5.4 mmol/L, 20.65% of deaths from ischaemic heart disease could be prevented if smoking and second-hand smoke was eradicated.
It was noted that tobacco use ranked as the 4th highest contributor to these deaths in men but tobacco use was only ranked 7th in women. During this time frame, the global prevalence of smoking decreased by 28.4% among men and 34.4% among women. Having a high BMI was ranked as the 5th highest contributor to ischemic heart disease deaths among women and 6th among men, and 18.3% of these deaths could be prevented if BMI was kept to 20-25 kg/m2. Additionally, for both genders, the percentage contributions of lead exposure and air pollution to age-standardized heart disease deaths increased as the country of residence becomes less developed.
“Ischaemic heart disease is largely preventable with healthy behaviours and individuals should take the initiative to improve their habits. In addition, geographically tailored strategies are needed – for example, programmes to reduce salt intake may have the greatest benefit in regions where consumption is high (e.g. China or central Asia),” said Dr. Liu.
This study supports and adds to a large body of evidence suggesting that simple lifestyle changes can help to prevent deaths, specifically by developing more healthful dietary habits. Food as medicine, what an interesting concept…
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.