Heart Healthy Diet Beats Meds

Cardiovascular events were lower in older people with heart healthy diets

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol don’t nullify the need for a healthy diet. Patients taking cardiovascular medication still need to eat well and exercise.

A recent study followed the health and diets of 31,546 cardiovascular patients for 5 years.

The authors said, “At times, patients don’t think they need to follow a healthy diet since their medications have already lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol—that is wrong.”

"Talk to a nutritionist about a heart-healthy diet."

Mahshid Dehghan, PhD, nutritionist at the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, was the lead author of the study.

Dr. Dehghan said, “Dietary modification has benefits in addition to those seen with aspirin, angiotensin modulators, lipid-lowering agents and beta blockers.”

This large study included 31,546 adults on medication for cardiovascular disease (CVD), between 60-72 years of age, to determine whether diet, habits and medications factored into risks for complications associated with CVD.

Complications with CVD included, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure or end-organ damage from diabetes.

Participants were part of two ongoing 40-country studies testing two different blood pressure medications: telmisartan and ramipril.

The ONTARGET study randomly placed participants into groups prescribed telmisartan, ramipril or a combination of the two.

The TRANSCEND study randomly placed participants into either a telmisartan group or a placebo group. Placebo groups are given ‘fake’ pills.

Participants were interviewed about their diet and habits over the past 12 months and then followed for the next 56 months.

Diet questions included how much and how often individuals consumed: fruits, vegetable, dairy, grains, meat, fish and poultry.

Habit questions included how much and how often individuals smoked, consumed alcohol, exercised, gained or lost weight.

Medication questions included how much and how often individuals took aspirin, beta blockers and/or statins.

Over the 5-year follow-up period, 5,190 cardiovascular events: 2,271 cardiovascular deaths, 1,154 heart attacks, 1,395 strokes, 1,343 congestive heart failures.

Healthier diets with more vegetable, fruit, dairy, grain and fish consumption showed lower rates of cardiovascular events.

  • 35 percent less risk for cardiovascular death
  • 14 percent less first heart attacks
  • 28 percent less congestive heart failure incidence
  • 19 percent less stroke incidence

Dr. Dehghan said, “Physicians should advise their high-risk patients to improve their diet and eat more vegetables, fruits, grains and fish. This could substantially reduce cardiovascular recurrence beyond drug therapy alone and save lives globally.”

This study was published in December in Circulation.

Funding support for ONTARGET and TRANSSEND trials were provided by Boehringer Ingelheim.

Authors have received funds from Boehringer Ingelheim and other companies manufacturing angiotensin receptor blockers, but report no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 3, 2012
Last Updated:
December 6, 2012