We’ve all heard—many times now—that a subpar diet harms our health, especially our heart health. In fact, researchers estimate that poor diet leads to more than 415,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the United States each year—and CVS is the leading cause of death worldwide, as well. The good news is that since CVD is so closely linked to diet, you can virtually erase the most pressing risk factor. A new study just out from the University of Washington finds that half of CVD deaths could be prevented by diet alone, and that eating right could help save tens of thousands of lives every year.
But … it’s more than just cutting back on fat and salt. The University of Washington study shows exactly which foods you need more of to protect your heart health: veggies and nuts.
How Half of CVD Deaths Could Be Prevented With Diet
A recent study conducted by a team at the University of Washington led by Dr. Ashkan Afshin, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington closely examined the link between diet and CVD. First, the team examined data from a broad array of global sources, including 1990 – 2012 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and food availability data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Next, the team looked closely at the 415,000 CVD deaths in the U.S. in 2015—of which more than 220,000 were
“What Exactly is Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an overarching term for conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels—such as heart attack, heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.”
men and more than 193,000 were women. Using systematic scientific methodology, the researchers then analyzed the CVD deaths according to associated dietary factors, including consumption of healthful foods and intake of unhealthful foods. Their findings were striking: low intake of nuts and seeds were the two leading dietary risk factors for CVD fatalities, with low intake of whole grains a relatively close third:
- Low intake of vegetables accounted for 11.6% of CVD deaths
- Low intake of nuts accounted for 11.5% of deaths
- Low intake of whole grains accounted for 10.4 % of CVD deaths
“Low intake of healthy foods such as nuts, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits combined with higher intake of unhealthy dietary components, such as salt and trans-fat, is a major contributor to deaths from cardiovascular disease in the United States,” says Dr. Afshin. “Our results show that nearly half of cardiovascular disease deaths in the United States can be prevented by improving diet.”