Switching to a healthy diet that meets current UK guidelines can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke in the over-40s by up to a third, research has shown.
Scientists measured blood pressure, artery health and heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol in 162 non-smoking men and women aged 40 to 70.
One group ate a traditional British diet high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, and low in fibre, oily fish and fruit and vegetables. The other consumed a diet with higher amounts of fruit and vegetables and lower levels of animal fat, that included oily fish once a week, replaced refined with wholegrain cereals, and restricted sugar and salt intake.
Men and women in the “healthy diet” group were also asked to replace cakes and biscuits with fruit and nuts and were also supplied with cooking oils and spreads high in mono-unsaturated fats.
The healthy diet was associated with significant falls in blood pressure, an average reduction in heart rate of 1.8 beats per minute, and an 8% fall in cholesterol levels.
Overall, the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that men and women over the age of 40 who adapted their diet to meet UK government guidelines reduced their risk of heart disease by up to a third.