Eating fiber helps heart attack patients live longer
New research shows that people who survive heart attacks have a greater chance of living longer if they increase their dietary intake of fiber.
Researchers analyzed data from two large studies—2,258 women and 1,840 men who survived a first heart attack during the course of the studies—and found that the group with the highest intake of fiber had a 25 percent lower chance of dying in the nine years after their heart attack compared to the group with the lowest intake. They also found that every 10g per day increase in fiber intake was associated with a 15 percent lower risk of dying over the nine-year follow-up period.
When it comes to cardiovascular disease, a diet high in fiber improves blood lipid levels and helps to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract, helping the body to eliminate it. This reduces blood cholesterol levels, which, in turn, reduces cholesterol deposits on arterial walls that eventually choke off the vessel.
However, according to a recent study, most Americans consume less than the recommended daily intake of fiber. The study found that 39 percent of children and teens and 42 percent of adults didn’t consume any whole grains, while only 3 percent of children and teens and about 8 percent of adults ate at least the recommended three servings per day.
Experts recommend getting in 20g of fiber per day to truly reap the health benefits.
“The best sources of fiber are whole grain foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts,” says Amy Strutzel, a registered dietitian in Cardiac Rehabilitation at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Illinois.
Strutzel also recommends the following sources of fiber:
- Eat whole fruits (such as apples with the skin on) instead of drinking fruit juices.
- Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.
- Choose whole grain cereals for breakfast—oatmeal is especially good at keeping cholesterol down.
- Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate bars.
- Substitute legumes for meat two to three times per week in chili and soups.
- Experiment with international dishes (such as Indian or Middle Eastern) that use whole grains and legumes as part of the main meal (as in Indian dahls) or in salads (for example, tabbouleh).
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