According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart failure impacts over 5.7 million adults in the United States. Nearly half of all people in the US who are diagnosed with heart failure die within five years of their original diagnosis.
As heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, researchers continue to work to find effective prevention strategies.
Now, a new study has found that plant-based diets are associated with a much lower risk of heart failure compared to diets filled with fried foods and sweetened drinks, which is often typical in southern diets.
Researchers from the American College of Cardiology reviewed data on 16,608 adults aged 45 years and older who were part of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study.
The REGARDS study investigated the associations between racial and geographic differences in heart failure hospitalizations and part of the study included a 150-question survey of food items split into five diets.
The researchers focused on those five diets which were listed as “convenience,” “plant-based,” “sweets/fats,” “Southern,” and “alcohol/salads.”
REGARDS participants were followed up on after 8.7 years, and within this time there were 363 new heart failure hospitalizations.
When the researchers examined the possible links between diet and these new hospitalizations, there was a 42 percent lower risk of heart failure among the participants that reported adhering to a plant-based diet.
For the participants that stuck to a Southern diet, there was a 72 percent higher risk of heart failure, although once the researchers adjusted for factors like BMI or hypertension, this risk association was lower.
A possible explanation for this drop in statistical significance is that adherence to a Southern diet affects other factors that play a more significant role in heart failures like obesity and waist size.
What the study shows more than anything else is that a plant-based diet could be an essential prevention strategy in the rising rates of heart failure and cardiovascular disease.
“The need for population-based preventive strategies for heart failure is critical,” said Kyla Lara, the lead author of the study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. “These findings support a population-based dietary strategy for lowering the risk of incident heart failure.”