Women Who Follow a Mediterranean Diet Could Lower Their Risk of Heart Disease, Report Says
Women who follow a Mediterranean diet could lower their risk of heart disease by up to 24%, according to a new report from peer-reviewed medical journal Heart.
The Mediterranean diet is described in the study as "high in unprocessed plant foods" like vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, grains. It involves moderate fish intake and is low on processed meat, dairy and other animal fats, with "the main source of dietary fat" coming from extra virgin olive oil used in cooking.
According to the report — which looked at 16 cohort studies of women over the age of 18 who had not been previously diagnosed with heart disease — women who followed the diet more closely decreased their risk of getting coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, and heart failure by 24%, while reducing risk of death by 23%.
"So this really confirmed that a [Mediterranean] diet was equally beneficial in women as it has been known to be in men," Sarah Zaman, one of the authors of the report, told 9 News Melbourne.
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Researchers at the University of Sydney said in the report that though they were able to demonstrate an association between the Mediterranean diet and lower risk of coronary heart disease, further research would need to be done to determine whether the Mediterranean diet could also impact stroke or "specific cardiovascular risk factors, menopausal status and ethnicity."
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Victoria Taylor, a senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation told the Washington Post that "sex-specific research like this is vital for reducing the heart disease gender gap and improving women's care."
"It's long been known that eating a Mediterranean-style is good for your heart, but it's encouraging to see this research suggest that when we look at women separately from men, the benefits remain," Taylor added.
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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. The agency said over 60 million women in the U.S. are living with some sort of heart disease and that it was responsible for the death of 1 out of 5 women in 2020, or 314,186 women.
According to the agency, the most common type of heart disease in women is coronary artery disease, which is caused by a plaque buildup in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Other heart diseases that affect women include heart arrhythmia (when the heart beats too slow or fast) and heart failure.