Youve no doubt heard plenty of about the Mediterranean-style eating plan and its heart-healthy benefits. But a new study further confirms that for patients at high risk of heart disease, a Mediterranean diet, supplemented with virgin olive oil and/or mixed nuts, may cut the risk of developing heart disease by as much as 30 percent compared to a reduced-fat diet. The study was presented at the International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition conference in California earlier this year.
Benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet are being touted everywhere, with research showing that the Ancient Greeks approach to food reduces the risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality. Additionally, a recent analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following the diet was associated with reducing the incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinsons and Alzheimers disease.
What you think you know about cardiovascular disease may not always be true, and sometimes that misinformation could put you at risk. To help explain the truth behind some common heart myths, Cleveland Clinic cardiac surgeon Marc Gillinov, MD, shares some insight. Dr. Gillinov and Steven Nissen, MD, head of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, also teamed up recently to write a book that addresses myriad issues surrounding heart health called Heart 411.
The best defense against heart attack and stroke may be the foods you eat. A followup to the Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial (DIRECT) published earlier this year in Circulation confirmed that three different diets-low-fat, low-carbohydrate and Mediterranean-are equally effective at reversing atherosclerosis. If you are at increased risk for heart attack or stroke, you can eat your way to better health, no matter what kind of foods you prefer. "Three choices makes it easy to choose an eating plan that fits your tastes, lifestyle and genetic profile, and to follow it," says Cleveland Clinic dietitian Melissa Ohlson, MS, RD, LD.
A study in the March 16 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association found that losing weight can help reverse atherosclerosis in obese adults. In the two-year Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial-Carotid (DIRECT-Carotid) study, participants were randomly assigned to eat low-fat, Mediterranean, or low-carbohydrate diets. Carotid artery thickness and carotid vessel wall volume were measured using ultrasound, and a total of 140 scans were completed. Most of the study participants were men with an average age of 51 and an average body mass index (BMI) of 30 (borderline between obese and overweight) at the start of the study.
Family get-togethers, parties and many hours indoors enjoying a warm kitchen are all part of the holiday season. But this time of year can often be a time of overeating and excessive alcohol consumption-both of which not only can pack on the pounds, but pose real risks for heart patients. Cleveland Clinic cardiologist and Heart Advisor physician-editor Leslie Cho, MD, reminds heart patients and those with risk factors to be mindful of their choices, especially during the holidays.
You read up on heart health, listen to your doctor and try to follow all that good advice. But somehow, ideas about how you should manage your health can get a little skewed. Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Curtis Rimmerman, MD, author of Heart Attack, A Cleveland Clinic Guide, says many well-meaning patients sometimes need reminders about the basics of a healthy lifestyle. Here are three common myths or misunderstandings and some advice from Dr. Rimmerman to set things straight.
Its well documented that diabetes can seriously complicate a heart condition, but research continues to show that elevated glucose levels that arent yet considered diabetes can boost our risk of cardiovascular problems, even if we dont yet have heart disease. An estimated 37 million Americans age 65 and older have diabetes, about a quarter of that population. But an additional 20 to 30 percent of seniors-about 7 to 11 million older adults-are not considered to have diabetes, but do have the form of "pre-diabetes" called impaired glucose tolerance. Unfortunately, its a condition that can be overlooked by physicians because pre-diabetes is seldom accompanied by obvious symptoms. Older adults who have impaired glucose tolerance, but are not yet considered diabetic, have an elevated heart disease risk and may benefit from preventive therapies, according to a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose refer to a mean blood glucose level that is in the 100-125 mg/dl range. Normal is considered 70-100 mg/dl and diabetes is considered 126 mg/dl or higher, as measured on at least two occasions.
If you have cardiovascular disease or insulin resistance, the Mediterranean diet may satisfy your desire for food that is both heart-healthy and tasty. A study found that women lost more weight and had better glycemic control on the Mediterranean diet than on a low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet (New England Journal of Medicine, July 17, 2008). Other studies concluded the Mediterranean diet may prevent the development of several serious diseases. These findings delighted dietitians, who say the Mediterranean diet is healthier than a low-carbohydrate diet and easier to follow than a low-fat diet. "The Mediterranean diet is naturally low in fat and high in taste, which makes it a good choice for a long-term lifestyle change," says Cleveland Clinic dietitian Melissa Ohlson, MS, RD, LD. "Adherence to a low-fat diet over time is generally poor, because so many popular foods are forbidden that people feel deprived. Low-carb diets severely limit carbs, even healthy carbs like whole grains, fruits and veggies. Traditional low-carb diets are also high in saturated fats, and we know that diets high in animal fats are linked to coronary disease," she says.
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