The Swedish study, done at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, took a much broader approach to the food intake of more than 24,000 postmenopausal women who supplied information on how often they ate 96 common foods.
The study, published in the same issue of the journal, identified four major dietary patterns: healthy (vegetables, fruits and legumes); Western/Swedish (red meat, processed meat, poultry, rice, pasta, eggs, fried potatoes, fish); alcohol (wine, liquor, beer and some snacks); and sweets (sweet baked goods, candy, chocolate, jam and ice cream).
In an average 6.2-year follow-up period, 308 of the women had heart attacks. However, two dietary patterns, healthy and alcohol, were associated with a reduced risk of heart attack, the researchers said.
A low-risk diet is characterized by a high intake of whole grains, fish, vegetables, fruit and legumes, moderate alcohol consumption, along with not smoking and being physically active and relatively thin, the researchers concluded. "This combination of healthy behaviors -- present in 5 percent [of those studied] -- may prevent 77 percent of myocardial infarctions [heart attacks] in the study population," the team wrote.
The study was called "empowering" by Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, because "it demonstrates that people have control over their health and can take control, eat properly and exercise and prevent onset of disease."
"This study clearly demonstrates that it is within an individual's control to change destiny and the ability to control his or her health," Steinbaum said.
"What's amazing is that a study of 24,000 women shows that a reduction of 77 percent is possible," she said. "What could be more empowering than that?"
The issue is muddied by a plethora of books urging different diets, she acknowledged. But the real road
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