A heart attack is a serious medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. While the condition can come on suddenly and prove fatal, it is usually the result of an accumulation of poor lifestyle decisions, such as eating unhealthy foods. Sticking to a healthy, balanced diet therefore plays a vital role in preventing the deadly health complications, and research makes a strong case for regularly consuming a type of fish to avert the risk.
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According to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s 41st Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, older individuals are less likely to die from a heart attack if they eat at least one serving of fatty fish per week.
“Fatty” fish is the term used to describe oily fish, which are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, and good sources of oily fish include salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and trout.
The study found that eating fatty fish at least once per week was associated with a 44 percent lower risk of dying from a heart attack among a group of older adults, average age 72.
In contrast, eating fried fish – which is typically lean – was not associated with a lower risk of dying from a heart attack. Examples of lean fish are cod, catfish and snapper.
Researchers analysed the relationship between eating fatty fish, eating fried fish and the risk of fatal heart attack and coronary heart disease deaths among nearly 4,000 men and women older than age 65 involved in the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Cardiovascular Health Study, launched in 1988 to assess the risk factors of heart disease and strokes among older adults.
At the beginning of the study, all participants were free of known cardiovascular disease. Mozaffarian and his colleagues used a detailed food questionnaire to assess the participants’ usual diet and participants were followed for an average of 6.8 years.
The researchers did not determine which specific types of fatty fish were consumed, therefore it is not possible to recommend one type of fatty fish, tuna or salmon, for example, over another.
Commenting on the findings, Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., lead author of the study and fellow in cardiology and health services research at the University of Washington/Seattle Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said: “Fatty fish are more abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, while fried fish are typically lean fish without significant omega-3 fatty acids. Because these omega-3 fatty acids may protect against dying from a heart attack, eating fatty fish may be of greater benefit than eating fried fish.”
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For optimal health benefits, oily fish should be enjoyed as part of a Mediterranean-style diet, which also includes fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals and modest amounts of meat and low-fat dairy.
Evidence suggests that following Mediterranean-style diet can almost halve your risk of developing heart disease, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego.
The study found that adults who closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 47 percent less likely to develop heart disease over a 10-year period compared to similar adults who did not closely follow the diet.
To gather the findings, the researchers analysed data from a representative sample of more than 2,500 Greek adults, ages 18 to 89, who provided researchers with their health information each year from 2001 to 2012.
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Participants also completed in-depth surveys about their medical records, lifestyle and dietary habits at the start of the study, after five years and after 10 years.
“Our study shows that the Mediterranean diet is a beneficial intervention for all types of people- in both genders, in all age groups, and in both healthy people and those with health conditions,” said Ekavi Georgousopoulou, a Ph.D. candidate at Harokopio University in Athens, Greece, who conducted the study along with Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos, Ph.D., professor at Harokopio University.
Georgousopoulou added: “It also reveals that the Mediterranean diet has direct benefits for heart health, in addition to its indirect benefits in managing diabetes, hypertension and inflammation.”
In addition to diet, exercise forms an essential part of heart attack prevention.
The NHS explained: “Being active and taking regular exercise will lower your blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.”
Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will help lower your blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a precursor to heart disease.
What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- Chest pain – a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of your chest
- Pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is travelling from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and abdomen
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
- An overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
- Coughing or wheezing
“Although the chest pain is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain, similar to indigestion,” noted the NHS.
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