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Celebrate American Heart Month

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Lower Odds of Repeat Heart Attack with More Fruit & Veggies

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” Winston Churchill famously observed. What’s true for geopolitics may equally apply to matters of the heart, at least where diet is concerned, new research suggests.

Roughly 3/4 of the 715,000 heart attacks suffered in this country each year are first heart attacks. Many of those patients think that medication alone will protect them from another attack. But a study recently published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, highlights the preventive power of a plant-based diet – not just in reducing cardiovascular disease risk in the first place — but also in recovery and long-term prognosis. Dietary patterns of 32,000 people in 40 countries were gathered and cross-referenced with cardiac health outcomes. Study subjects were at least 55 years old, previously afflicted with heart disease, stroke or acute type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar contributes to diabetics’ nearly quadruple risk of cardiac fatality). The result: Those who ate the most fruit, veggies, whole grains, and healthy proteins (think fish, nuts, etc.) were 35% less likely to die from another heart attack or stroke during the five-year study!

Such findings are yet another reason to take heart – pun intended – during February’s American Heart Month. They add to the mountain of evidence showing eating more produce can help protect you against America’s number one killer. For example, every extra half-cup of fruit you eat each day could reduce your heart disease risk by an additional 7%, according to an analysis of nine studies involving 220 people. Heart healthy standouts include berries, fish, bananas and oatmeal.

Plunging temperatures in many parts of the country actually can increase your vulnerability to heart attacks, so if cold weather whets your appetite for comfort foods, may we suggest this month’s featured recipe, a hearty bean soup with winter squash. While you’re at it, treat yourself to a warming cup of hot cocoa, just make sure to use extra dark chocolate, which may help balance blood pressure as well as ratios of “good” to “bad” cholesterol. Enjoy!

Published February 1, 2014

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