Each year, one in four deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is a plethora of information online about preventing heart disease and related conditions, but recent research from Uppsala University’s Dr. Karl Michaëlsson shows that eating a healthy diet, specifically the Mediterranean diet, can reduce an individual’s risk of heart disease even more than losing weight can.
Links Between Obesity and Heart Disease
Over 40 percent of Americans are considered clinically obese, and obesity shows significant links to heart disease. Many of the high-calorie, low-nutrient-dense foods associated with higher-weight populations are also attributed to heart disease concerns like inflammation and arterial plaque. Each year, four million people die of complications related to obesity, and two-thirds of these deaths are attributed to heart disease. By switching to a healthy diet of whole foods, individuals will have a much easier time preventing heart disease.
America’s #1 Killer
The term heart disease includes several conditions that affect an individual’s heart and cardiovascular function. Blood vessel diseases, congenital heart defects, and heart rhythm irregularities all fall under the umbrella term of heart disease.
The CDC estimates that 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, making cardiovascular complications the leading cause of death in the United States. Though the disease is so prevalent in America, few actually know the warning signs or methods of preventing heart disease.
Those looking to decrease their risk of heart disease are encouraged to choose healthy habits and keep their medical conditions in check. The CDC recommends building healthy habits by choosing healthy food and beverage options, maintaining a healthy weight/BMI, staying active, and avoiding tobacco products. The center also recommends checking cholesterol levels regularly, controlling one’s blood pressure, managing diabetes, and taking prescription medications as directed.
Taking Cues from the Mediterranean
Dr. Karl Michaëlsson of Sweden’s Uppsala University recently completed a 21-year study that tracked 79,003 Swedish adults’ health and wellness in relation to their BMI measurements and diets. In the two decades covered by the study, over 30,000 participants passed away.
The study revealed that obese individuals who follow healthy diets were no more likely to die than those with healthy or average BMI measurements who followed the same or similar diets. Specifically, obese individuals lowered their mortality risk to the same of those with lower BMIs by following the Mediterranean diet; a healthy, whole-food-based diet was proven highly beneficial in preventing heart disease.
The Mediterranean diet is not a diet in the way Americans typically think of the word; no foods are off-limits, but rather, everything can be eaten in moderation and the majority of calories should come from nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, unrefined grains, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil. The diet is based on what people living along the Mediterranean sea ate in the 1960s when researchers realized that individuals in this area were less likely to experience heart disease, high cholesterol, and other food-related ailments, regardless of weight. For more information on the Mediterranean diet, visit the Mayo Clinic’s informational webpage. Always consult your doctor before starting a new meal plan to ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs.
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