Thursday, October 16, 2014

Beware of Pills That Let You Eat as You Please

Many people take statins and other drugs to protect the heart and brain against vascular problems such as heart attack, stroke & vascular dementia. Once on these medications, how much does diet matter?

It is well-established that a heart-and-brain-healthy diet protects against heart attacks and strokes that cause vascular dementia. Revealing research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation looks at the impact of such diets on people taking heart-and-brain-healthy medications.

Mahshid Dehghan, Ph.D., is the study author and a nutritionist at the Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He said,
"At times, patients don't think they need to follow a healthy diet since their medications have already lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol — that is wrong."
"Dietary modification has benefits in addition to those seen with aspirin, angiotensin modulators, lipid-lowering agents and beta blockers."
For the study, 31,546 adults (average age 66.5) with cardiovascular disease or end organ damage were asked how often they consumed milk, vegetables, fruits, grains, fish, meat and poultry in the past 12 months. They were also asked about lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption, smoking and exercise. Total scores were determined by daily fruits, vegetables, grains and milk consumed and the ratio of fish to meats consumed.

During a follow-up of nearly five years, participants experienced 5,190 cardiovascular events. These cardiovascular events are commonly the foundation of vascular dementia.

Researchers found those who ate a heart-healthy diet had a:
  • 35 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular death;
  • 14 percent reduction in risk for new heart attacks;
  • 28 percent reduction in risk for congestive heart failure; and
  • 19 percent reduction in risk for stroke leading to vascular dementia.
Food habits in different regions of the world varied considerably; however, a healthy diet was associated with prevention of recurrent cardiovascular disease throughout the world in countries with different economic levels, Dehghan said.

A diet rich in vegetables and fruits with a higher ratio of fish to meats appeared to be more beneficial for preventing heart disease than for preventing cancer, fractures or injury.

"Physicians should advise their high-risk patients to improve their diet and eat more vegetables, fruits, grains and fish," Dehghan said. "This could substantially reduce cardiovascular recurrence beyond drug therapy alone and save lives globally."

  • Co-authors are Andrew Mente, Ph.D.; Koon K. Teo, Ph.D.; Peggy Gao, M.Sc.; Peter Sleight, D.M.; Gilles Dagenais, M.D.; Alvaro Avezum, M.D.; Jeffrey L. Probstfield, M.D.; Tony Dans, M.D.; and Salim Yusuf, D.Phil. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.
  • Boehringer Ingelheim funded the study.
  • For more information on health eating visit the AHA Nutrition Center.
  • Follow @HeartNews on Twitter for the latest heart and stroke news.
  • For updates and new science from the Circulation journal follow @CircAHA.
Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at

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