One of the leading causes of heart disease or heart attacks is high blood pressure, which affects 40 percent more blacks than whites. While there are a number of reasons a person can develop high blood pressure, the food we are putting into our bodies plays a major part. This is why many people have begun limiting or even eliminating meat from their diets and opting for a diet that includes more fruits and vegetables. Research shows that for people at any age, eating a healthy, plant-based diet is tied to a lower risk of heart attack and heart disease.
“A nutritionally rich, plant-centered diet is beneficial for cardiovascular health. A plant-centered diet is not necessarily vegetarian,” Yuni Choi, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, in Minneapolis says.”People can choose among plant foods that are as close to natural as possible, not highly processed.”
Choi’s study included nearly 5,000 U.S. adults enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. They were aged 18 to 30 years and free of heart disease at the time of enrollment in 1985 to 1986.
During 32 years of follow-up, almost 300 participants developed cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, heart-related chest pain or clogged arteries somewhere in the body.
However, folks who ate the most nutritionally rich plant foods were 52% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. The protective eating habits included consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains, and fewer unhealthy animal products such as high-fat red meat.
The researchers also found that participants who improved their diet the most between ages 25 to 50 were 61 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those whose diet quality declined the most during that time.
Because there were few vegetarians among the participants, the study wasn’t able to assess the possible benefits of a strict vegetarian diet that excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy and eggs.
“We think that individuals can include animal products in moderation from time to time, such as non-fried poultry, non-fried fish, eggs and low-fat dairy,” Choi says.