Fish eaters, meat eaters, vegetarians: Who have the lowest heart disease and stroke risks?

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Scientists from the University of Oxford found that fish eaters and vegetarians have lower risks of heart disease than meat eaters.

Heart disease is a catch-all phrase for a variety of conditions that affect the heart’s structure and how it works.

Coronary heart disease is a type of heart disease where the arteries of the heart cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart. It is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Other types of heart disease include heart arrhythmias, heart failure, heart valve disease, heart muscle disease, and congenital heart disease.

A stroke happens when blood flow to your brain is stopped. It is an emergency situation. It can be caused by a narrowed blood vessel, bleeding, or a clot that blocks blood flow.

Symptoms can happen suddenly. If someone is showing any sign of a stroke, call 911 immediately.

Strokes can be classified into two main categories:

Ischemic strokes. These are strokes caused by blockage of an artery (or, in rare instances, a vein). About 87% of all strokes are ischemic.

Hemorrhagic stroke. These are strokes caused by bleeding. About 13% of all strokes are hemorrhagic.

Vegetarianism is the practice of living solely upon vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and nuts—with or without the addition of milk products and eggs—generally for ethical, ascetic, environmental, or nutritional reasons.

In the study, researchers aimed to examine the links between vegetarianism and the risks of heart disease and stroke.

They used data from the EPIC-Oxford study, a study in the United Kingdom with a large proportion of non-meat eaters, recruited across the country between 1993 and 2001.

The team examined 48,188 people with no history of heart disease, stroke, or angina (heart failure).

These people were classified into three diet groups: meat eaters (participants who consumed meat, regardless of whether they consumed fish, dairy, or eggs);

fish eaters (consumed fish but no meat), and vegetarians including vegans, based on dietary information collected at the beginning, and subsequently around 2010.

The team examined cases of heart disease and stroke until 2016.

Over 18 years of follow-up, the team found 2820 cases of heart disease and 1072 cases of stroke (519 ischaemic strokes and 300 haemorrhagic strokes).

They found fish eaters and vegetarians had 13% and 22% lower risks of heart disease than meat eaters, respectively.

This difference was equivalent to 10 fewer cases of ischaemic heart disease in vegetarians than in meat eaters per 1000 population over 10 years.

The associations for heart disease were reduced after adjustment for self-reported high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and body mass index.

By contrast, vegetarians had 20% higher rates of total stroke than meat eaters, equivalent to three more cases of total stroke per 1000 population over 10 years, mostly due to a higher rate of haemorrhagic stroke.

The associations for stroke did not reduce after further adjustment of disease risk factors.

Based on these findings, the team concluded that fish eaters and vegetarians have lower risks of heart disease than meat eaters, although vegetarians had higher risks of hemorrhagic stroke.

The research was published in BMJ and was conducted by Tammy Tonget al.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and Vitamin B supplements could help reduce dementia risk.

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