According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four American deaths is due to heart disease, each year. Luckily, there are plenty of tips available to those looking to lower their risk of heart disease. Most people know that losing weight and working out can benefit their hearts, however, new research from Uppsala University’s Dr. Karl Michaëlsson shows that eating a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, is actually more important than weight loss for preventing heart disease and related ailments.
Obesity, Processed Foods, and Illness
Obesity affects over 40 percent of Americans and has significant links to heart disease. Most of the processed, high-calorie foods that contribute to weight gain also contribute to health concerns like clogged arteries and inflammation. Of the four million annual obesity-related deaths, 66 percent are due to heart disease or related complications.
Heart Disease: A silent killer
Heart disease is a blanket term for several conditions that affect one’s heart and cardiovascular function. The term includes blood vessel diseases, heart rhythm irregularities, and congenital heart defects, along with many other cardiovascular ailments.
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, yet few know the warning signs of the disease or are aware of various methods to prevent it.
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.
The Mediterranean Diet: A way of life
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. Over 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.
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. Along with eating nutrient-dense meals, the Mediterranean diet also includes staying active and enjoying meals with family and friends. 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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