Heart failure is a potentially fatal disease that occurs when the heart is too weak to pump blood efficiently around the body.

The study showed that individuals who followed the AHA’s guidelines to healthy eating, which includes eating at least five portions of fruits or vegetables per day, were at a lower risk of incident heart failure.

In the study, researchers analyzed 18,000 participants who were ages 45 years and older from the National Institutes of Health-funded Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study in order to determine real-world eating patterns. The participants were studied from 2003 to 2007, and were followed through to 2013. A total of 15,569 of these participants had no previous instances of coronary heart disease or heart failure. An analysis of this study revealed five key diet patterns:

  • Convenience Diet: Red meat, pastas, carbohydrates, fast foods
  • Plant-Based Diet: Rich in fruits, vegetables, fish
  • Sweets Diets: Desserts, breads, chocolate and sweet breakfast foods
  • Southern Diet: Eggs, fried food, organ and processed meat and, fatty milk
  • Alcohol/Salad Diet: Beer, wine, liquor, green leafy vegetables, salad dressings, nuts and, seeds

Of these diets, the plant-based diet had the strongest association with a decreased incidence of heart failure, after being adjusted for age, sex, and race of participants. However, it should be noted that the results of this study are observational and, as such, cannot prove cause and effect.

Researchers from the study stated that individuals looking to lead a heart-healthy diet should eat mostly dark green leafy plants, fruits, beans, whole grains, and fish, while limiting their intake of processed meats, saturated fats, trans-fats, refined carbohydrates, and foods high in added sugars.

The heart disease market in the US is extremely large, as the disease affects 6.5 million Americans over the age of 20, and there are several significant unmet needs in the indication according to GlobalData’s primary research. One of the most significant unmet needs in the market is the need for preventative therapies; the results of the study show that a proactive approach involving diet and lifestyle management may help address this unmet need. If more people were to switch to a plant-based diet, this may lead to less strain being put on healthcare systems in the long term, which would then allow physicians to spend more time with their patients.

In the future, further studies are needed to define the relationship between diet and health; however, funding, either from the government or elsewhere, is needed to effectively carry out this research and define the correlation between the two variables. Nonetheless, it is clear that certain lifestyle approaches can go a long way toward protecting your heart.