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Lower Heart Disease As A Vegetarian

Today heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women… but here’s something you can do to tip the odds in your favor. A new UK study appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that those who follow a vegetarian diet are one third less likely to be hospitalized (or die) due to heart disease than those who eat meat and fish.

Earlier work in this area has suggested that those who don’t eat meat have fewer problems with their heart, but it still wasn’t clear if there were other factors (exercise, smoking habits) that might also be involved. Today the picture is clearer.

According to Francesca Crowe of the University of Oxford, who led the new research, there is something in the vegetarian diet that’s causing the lower risk of heart disease. She and her team tracked about 45,000 subjects living in England and Scotland who gave initial reports about what they ate, their lifestyle and general health during the 1990s. When the study began, almost a third said they were vegetarians who did not eat any meat or fish.

Over the study period, 11 to 12 years, 1,066 of the subjects were put in the hospital for heart disease, including having a heart attack, and 169 died from these events. After accounting for age, exercise and other health measures, the team saw that vegetarians were 32% less likely to have heart disease than meat eaters. When weight was made part of the equation, the effect dropped to just 28%.

Experts think that reduced heart disease risk was because of the lower cholesterol numbers and blood pressure readings among the vegetarians taking part in the research. Meat eating subjects had a total cholesterol of 222 mg/dL on average, and a systolic (top number) blood pressure of 134 mm Hg. This compared to 203 mg/dL total cholesterol and 131 mm Hg systolic blood pressure for the vegetarian subjects. The diastolic (bottom) number was similar for both groups.

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Lower Heart Disease As A Vegetarian Continued…

Crowe believes that the difference in total cholesterol numbers between the meat eaters and vegetarian subjects was about half of what you might see if you were to take a prescription statin drug. The drop in numbers is likely due to the lack of red meat, especially those choices that are high in saturated fat. Plus all those fruits and veggies are a natural source of fiber and other beneficial nutrients, and these could also play a role.

So, if you’re looking to reduce your risk of dangerous heart disease, one way might be to adopt a vegetarian diet. This is not a decision to enter into lightly. Talk with your doctor and to those who eat this way now. Be sure to plan carefully and eat a wide variety of foods to meet your body’s nutritional needs.

If you’re not quite ready to go full vegetarian, making a sincere effort to cut back on saturated fat will also make a difference – so limit butter, ice cream cheeses and meats, and you’ll be making a good start to lowering the amount of bad fats you’re taking in.

To your good health,

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