Heart-healthy Mediterranean diet reduces stroke risk by 60 percent
02/11/2019 // Ellaine Castillo // Views

Each year, heart disease claims more than 600,000 American lives, making it the leading cause of death in the U.S.  However, people with this condition should not lose hope. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of these cases could be avoided if people switched to a healthier lifestyle, which includes following the Mediterranean diet.

To reduce the risk of heart disease, it is recommended that people get at least ten servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Unfortunately, most people are unable to achieve this. Recent estimates show that approximately 87 percent of Americans do not meet the recommended vegetable intake while 76 percent fall short on fruit consumption.

Following the Mediterranean diet can help a person achieve their recommended daily intake of these foods because it features an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. These provide them with the fiber and antioxidants that they need. In addition, plant-based foods in the Mediterranean diet delivers up to 1500 mg of polyphenols per day. These bioactive compounds offer a wide range of benefits, from improving longevity, neutralizing free radicals, reducing inflammation, to improving insulin sensitivity. The Mediterranean diet also includes three servings of fatty fish like salmon per week, healthy fats from olive oil, avocados or tree nuts, and a moderate amount of wine with each meal.

How does the Mediterranean diet improve heart health?

A recent study, which was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, revealed that following a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by a whopping 60 percent. The study also showed that this type of diet can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce pro-inflammatory molecules, which are major contributors to the development of heart disease.


Polyphenols and antioxidants included in the Mediterranean diet reduce inflammation by reducing the levels of five different inflammatory markers. Meanwhile, the healthy fats that are part of the diet, along with some active polyphenols, improve blood pressure by boosting the production of nitric oxide. This serves as a natural vasodilator and allows for the easier passage of blood through the blood vessels.

One research presented at the 2016 European Society of Cardiologists Congress provided further proof that the Mediterranean diet is good for the heart. The seven-year study showed that patients who suffer from heart disease and strictly followed the Mediterranean diet had a lower mortality risk compared to those who did not follow the diet consistently. This result was deemed "extraordinary" by experts at the Congress and they noted that the Mediterranean diet is "more powerful than any drug."

Overall, these studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet can be used as an effective method for improving heart health and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. (Related: Mediterranean diet protects against peripheral artery disease, heart attack and stroke.)

More reasons to follow the Mediterranean diet

People who follow the Mediterranean diet can also enjoy the following health benefits:

  • Lower blood sugar levels -- Research showed that compared to other eating plans, like vegetarian, vegan, and low-glycemic diets, the Mediterranean diet is the most beneficial diet for patients with diabetes or pre-diabetes. This can be attributed to the high amounts of monounsaturated fats and fiber in the Mediterranean diet that help lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
  • Better cognitive health -- People who follow the Mediterranean diet can enjoy enhanced memory as well as improved attention and focus. Furthermore, following this diet reduces the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
  • Healthier skin -- Healthy skin is important for overall health since it protects against pathogens in the outside world. Foods included in the Mediterranean diet deliver large amounts of vitamin E and antioxidants that help hydrate and nourish the skin.

If you want to learn more about how you can take care of your heart, visit Heart.news.

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