How your diet can influence sudden cardiac death

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Scientists from the University of Alabama have found a link between what you eat and the risk of sudden cardiac death.

This study, led by Dr. James M. Shikany, shines a spotlight on how important diet can be to our heart health.

Your diet can significantly impact your heart’s health. For a heart-friendly diet, experts advise limiting intake of sodium and saturated fat. They recommend a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

One such diet known to be heart-healthy is the Mediterranean diet. It is chock-full of fruits, vegetables, fish, cereals, legumes, and has minimal meat and dairy products.

However, the relationship between diet and sudden cardiac death – a condition where the heart suddenly stops beating, leading to death within an hour – has not been extensively studied.

There have been small studies suggesting the Mediterranean diet might lower the risk of such an event.

The Study: Comparing Dietary Patterns

In this study, Dr. Shikany and his team wanted to understand whether there’s a connection between different dietary patterns and the risk of sudden cardiac death.

They scrutinized the diets of over 21,000 participants using a food questionnaire. This questionnaire asked participants how often and in what quantities they had consumed 110 different foods in the past year.

Using the responses from the questionnaire, the researchers calculated a ‘Mediterranean diet score’ for each participant.

They also identified five different dietary patterns, one of which they dubbed the “Southern” eating pattern, which was heavy on added fats, fried food, eggs, processed meats, organ meats, and sugary beverages.

The researchers then recorded any heart-related incidents that happened over an average period of ten years.

The Findings: The Southern Diet vs The Mediterranean Diet

More than 400 sudden cardiac deaths occurred during the study. The data showed a clear link between diet and the risk of sudden cardiac death.

The study found that people who regularly ate a Southern-style diet were at a much higher risk of sudden cardiac death. These individuals had a 46% higher risk than those who did not follow this diet closely.

On the other hand, those who stuck to the Mediterranean diet were much safer. They had a 26% lower risk of sudden cardiac death compared to those with the least adherence to this diet.

Among those who had no coronary heart disease when the study began, those who closely followed the Mediterranean diet had a significant 41% reduction in the risk of sudden cardiac death.

Conclusion: Diet Matters

These results underline the importance of diet in managing heart health. Diet is a modifiable risk factor for sudden cardiac death, implying that making the right food choices can significantly reduce the risk of such an event.

This supports previous findings that improving your diet can have a significant effect on heart health.

Therefore, leaning towards a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, cereals, and legumes, may be a good idea for a healthier heart.

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