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How to live longer: Plant-based diets may ‘lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality’

Dr Chris on the link between paracetamol and heart disease

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Cardiovascular disease includes a number of conditions that affect your heart or circulation, such as high blood pressure, stroke and vascular dementia. A healthy lifestyle can often lower your risk. Healthy eating involves having a balance of different foods and nutrients in the diet for good health and wellbeing.

One study in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) found: “Diets higher in plant foods and lower in animal foods were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in a general population.”

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) says: “A plant-based diet may suit some people, but is a serious undertaking and it’s too soon for the BHF to recommend this way of eating for everyone.”

Nonetheless, the charity advises eating more fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains, and less meat, whether you eat animal products or not.

The BHF states: “We do know that a Mediterranean-style diet, which includes plenty of fruit, veg, pulses and fish, and only small amounts of meat, may be easier to follow than a strict plant-based diet.”

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The charity says it is also linked to lower rates of heart disease than a conventional Western diet.

It adds it is important to remember a plant-based diet is not automatically healthy.“Too much saturated fat, sugar and salt from any source can harm your health.”

It also notes there are an increasing number of manufactured plant-based snack foods available.

Indeed, Harvard Health says: “There are many types of plant-based diets, but they all emphasise certain foods associated with heart benefits, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and healthy oils like olive oil.

“The diets that have been most studied for their impact on heart health include the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the MIND diet.

“These diets are rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals that help lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, reduce the risk of diabetes, and help maintain a healthy weight, all of which can lower your risk of heart disease.”

It notes a 2014 study from the American Heart Association which showed that men ages 45 to 79 who ate 75 grams or more per day of processed red meat, like cold cuts, sausage, bacon, and hot dogs, had a 28 percent higher risk of heart failure compared with men who ate less than 25 grams.

Nonetheless, it says a study in the January 2017 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating three ounces of unprocessed red meat, three times per week, did not worsen blood pressure and total cholesterol levels.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says past research has tied red meat to increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

It says the studies have also pointed to an elevated risk of mortality from red meat intake.

The NHS says it’s recommended that people who eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day cut down to 70g or less, as this may reduce your risk of bowel cancer.

The health body says the exact cause of cardiovascular disease is not clear, but there are lots of things that can increase your risk of getting it.

If you’re over 40, you’ll be invited by your GP for an NHS Health Check every five years.The NHS notes: “Part of this check involves assessing your individual cardiovascular disease risk and advising you how to reduce it if necessary.”

It adds: “If you’re overweight, losing weight has many health benefits. Making small, simple changes to what and how much you are eating and drinking can really help you lose the pounds.”

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