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The Mediterranean Diet and Heart Health

We are often asked: “Does the Mediterranean diet help ward off heart attacks and stroke?”

The short answer is yes.

About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables.

Published in The New England Journal of Medicine’s website on February 26, 2013, these findings are based on the first major clinical trial to measure the Mediterranean diet’s effect on heart risks. The obvious and clear success of those on the Mediterranean Diet not only shocked the experts administering the study, but forced them to curtail it after only about 5 years. Continuing it would have been unethical to those not on the diet. Interestingly:

  • Not all those on the diet lost weight
  • Most participants were already taking medication to control cholesterol and blood pressure

Despite the above, patients saw exceptional improvements in heart health.

Cholesterol has always been held in low regard – after all, high cholesterol is a strong indicator for heart disease risk. However, recent National Dietary Guidelines have made the distinction between cholesterol – a compound that actually has many health benefits – and serum cholesterol (often worsened by consuming saturated an trans fats). Learn more about those nutritional guidelines here.

Ultimately, this study and modern medical wisdom dictate that it is indeed what we eat that can make a significant difference in our heart health. And with cardiac issues representing such a high proportion of early mortality in the United States, diet must be a part of any treatment plan for heart disease. It is never too late to change your diet and get back on track. Speak to your cardiologist about implementing the Mediterranean Diet.

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