Unhealthy diet is top contributor to heart disease deaths globally

October 17, 2020 in Healthy Eating, Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Unhealthy diet is top contributor to heart disease deaths globally

More than two-thirds of deaths from heart disease worldwide could be prevented with healthier diets.

The new analysis revealed that unhealthy diet, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol are the top three contributors to deaths from heart attacks and angina, collectively called ischemic heart disease. This finding was consistent in both developed and developing countries.

According to the researchers, more than six million deaths could be avoided by reducing intake of processed foods, sugary beverages, trans and saturated fats, and added salt and sugar, while increasing intake of fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.

How much each day is protective?

Ideally, the researchers say, we should eat the following on a daily basis:

  • 200 to 300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids from seafood, equivalent to eating three ounces of cooked salmon per week.
  • 200 to 300 grams of fruit, equivalent to eating 125 ml (1/2 cup) blueberries and 1 small apple or, 1 medium orange and 250 ml (1 cup) of grapes.
  • 290 to 430 grams of vegetables, equivalent to 250 ml of cooked broccoli and 250 ml of cooked carrots, or 8 asparagus spears and 250 ml cooked butternut squash.
  • 16 to 25 grams of nuts, equivalent to 12 to 20 almonds, 8 to 12 walnut halves or 21 to 36 pistachios.
  • 100 to 150 grams of whole grains, an amount equivalent to eating 175 ml (3/4 cup) cooked brown rice and 150 ml (2/3 cup) oatmeal each day, or two slices of whole wheat bread and 125 ml of cooked bulgur

The study analysed data provided by the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, which was conducted in 195 countries between 1990 and 2017.

The investigators calculated the impact of 11 risk factors on death from ischemic heart disease. These were diet, high blood pressure, high blood (LDL) cholesterol, high blood glucose, smoking, high body mass index (BMI), air pollution, low physical activity, impaired kidney function, lead exposure, and alcohol use.

Specifically, they estimated the proportion of deaths that could be stopped by eliminating that risk factor.

Assuming all other risk factors remained unchanged, 69% of ischemic heart disease deaths worldwide could be prevented if healthier diets were adopted.

Meanwhile, 54.4% of these deaths could be avoided if systolic blood pressure was kept at 110-115 mmHg, while 41.9% of deaths could be stopped if serum LDL was kept at 0.7-1.3 mmol/L. About one-quarter of deaths could be prevented if fasting blood glucose was kept at 4.8-5.4 mmol/L, while not smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke could stop 20% of deaths from ischaemic heart disease.

Notably, smoking ranked as fourth highest contributor to ischemic heart disease deaths in men but only seventh in women. Between 1990 and 2017, the global prevalence of smoking decreased by 28% in men and 34% in women.

High BMI was the fifth highest contributor to ischemic heart disease deaths in women and sixth in men.

Bottom line: ischemic heart disease is largely preventable with healthy behaviours.

Source: European Heart Journal - Quality of Care and Clinical Outcomes, October 5, 2020.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.