Dr. Andrew Vaughan, Brittany Messer: Healthy eating remains key to preventing and managing cardiovascular disease – Huntington Herald Dispatch

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In the last 50 years, advances in cardiovascular disease treatments have improved the lives and reduced the risk of death and disability of individuals living with heart disease. Risk factor reduction such as smoking has made a significant impact. Despite these advances in medications, interventions and surgery, poor dietary habits remain a significant and modifiable risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. Americans fall short of the national recommendations for physical activity and healthy-eating patterns, which play a substantial role in the reduction of cardiovascular and other diseases.

Recent studies have shown that 45 to 48% of deaths due to cardiometabolic diseases (about 600,000 deaths in the U.S. per year) have been related to unhealthy dietary factors. In the U.S., about 85% of current health care spending is related to the management of diet-related chronic diseases. Sodium intake contributes the highest risk to cardiovascular disease due primarily to effects on blood pressure. According to the World Health Organization, between 1999 and 2019 the number of people worldwide with high blood pressure doubled from 650 million to 1.3 billion. Control of blood pressure could lower deaths due to heart disease by millions. Dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet and other whole food plant-based diets have been shown to reduce high blood pressure and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These diets are higher in beneficial nutrients such as fiber and omega 3 fats, and in foods such as nuts, seeds, vegetables, whole fruits, lean meat and whole grains. They are low in ingredients that are poor for heart health such as ultra processed foods, processed meats, saturated fat, sugary beverages and other simple carbohydrates. The reduction in high blood pressure with dietary interventions can be as effective as many drugs in lowering blood pressure to healthy levels.

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