THERE'S lots of conflicting advice about which diet is most beneficial for your health.
But researchers have now determined which programme is most effective in preventing death and major cardiovascular events if you're at increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The study published by the British Medical Journal ranked seven popular diets by analysing 40 separate trials that looked at people with an increased risk of CVD.
Combined, the team analysed data from 35,548 participants.
They then determined which diets were most effective in reducing the risk of death, strokes and heart attacks.
Out of the seven dietary programmes – low fat, Mediterranean, very low fat, modified fat, combined low fat and low sodium, Ornish and Pritikin -researchers' top two pics were:
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1. The Mediterranean diet
Researchers determined that following a Mediterranean diet was 'superior' to following a usual diet or getting some dietary advice from a health professional.
It's a diet rich in plant-based foods, seafood, fruit, nuts, legumes and unsaturated fats like olive oil.
While it varies by country and region, the NHS says it usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.
They determined that people at high risk of CVD who followed the programme had a lower likelihood of death, having a heart attack or a stroke.
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The risk of death, heart and attack and stroke was also lower for people with an intermediate risk of CVD.
Studies have found that following this plan can reduce type-2 diabetes risk and could also cut the likelihood of developing dementia by almost a quarter.
2. Low fat diet
Researchers determined that low fat programmes were also effective in reducing the risk of death, heart attack or stroke.
"When compared with one another, there were no convincing differences between Mediterranean and low fat programmes for mortality or non-fatal heart attack," they wrote.
Following a low fat diet involves reducing fat intake from foods such as butter, eggs and cheese, and consuming whole grain versions of food such as bread, according to Diabetes UK.
Researchers determined that the remaining five programmes were no more beneficial to people than following a usual diet or getting some dietary advice from a health professional.
They wrote: "Other dietary programmes did not show convincing evidence of superiority to minimal intervention, except possibly combined low fat and low sodium programmes for stroke prevention in patients at high risk ."
The researchers acknowledge several limitations to the studies, such as being unable to measure how much people adhered to the dietary programmes.
They also acknowledged that some of the benefits seen by participants in the studies may have been due to other elements such as drug treatment and support to stop smoking.
What are the signs of a heart attack and stroke?
Heart attack symptoms can include:
- chest pain – a sensation of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across the chest
- pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy (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.
- While the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain, women are more likely to experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
The FAST method – which stands for Face, Arms, Speech, Time – is the easiest way to remember the most common symptoms of stroke:
F = Face drooping – if one side of a person's face is dropped or numb then ask them to smile, if it's uneven then you should seek help.
A = Arm weakness – if one arm is weak or numb then you should ask the person to raise both arms. If one arm drifts downwards then you might need to get help
S = Speech difficulty – if a person's speech is slurred then this could be a sign of a stroke
T = Time to call 999 – if a person has the signs above then you need to call 999 in the UK or 911 in the US for emergency care.
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