Nutrition is an important part of elderly care, as it can have a significant impact on older people's health and general wellbeing. A new study has suggested a way that diet could help to improve cardiac health in older people.
The research, published in the European Heart Journal, found that a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and unrefined foods was linked to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke in people with heart disease.
By looking at more than 15,000 people across 39 countries, the team were able to determine that for every 100 people eating this Mediterranean-style diet, three fewer heart attacks, strokes or deaths were suffered. This was in comparison to 100 people who consumed a markedly unhealthier diet over a four-year period.
The study found that eating more of these healthier foods had a bigger impact than avoiding unhealthy, high-sugar produce like sweets and desserts.
Participants were asked to complete a lifestyle questionnaire, which featured simple questions about how often they ate certain food groups each week. Depending on their answers, they were given a "Mediterranean diet score" (MDS) or a "Western diet score" (WDS). These ratings were then linked to the number of healthy or unhealthy foods they ate, respectively.
After nearly four years, the team found that a heart attack, stroke or death had occurred in just over a tenth of all participants.
Professor Ralph Stewart, from Auckland City Hospital, University of Auckland and lead author of the study, said: "After adjusting for other factors that might affect the results, we found that every one unit increase in the MDS was associated with a seven per cent reduction in the risk of heart attacks, strokes or death from cardiovascular or other causes in patients with existing heart disease."
However, they also found that eating more foods thought to be less healthy and more typical of Western diets was not associated with a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes or death.
"The research suggests we should place more emphasis on encouraging people with heart disease to eat more healthy foods, and perhaps focus less on avoiding unhealthy foods," Professor Stewart said.
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