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Antioxidant-rich diet protects women’s hearts

Research finds that putting the right blend of nutrients on your plate can protect against heart disease.

When choosing whether to eat a cookie or orange, or deciding between a dinner roll or side of broccoli, factor this into your decision: a study in the October issue of The American Journal of Medicine found that a diet high in fruit, as well as vegetables and whole grains, just might prevent you from having a heart attack.

Heart disease and the artery damage that causes it are linked to increases in dangerous molecules called reactive oxygen species, which can occur from the aging process. These molecules can damage cells, contributing to conditions ranging from cancer to heart disease. Antioxidants go after these molecules and destroy them, which may be why studies have linked an antioxidant-rich diet to lower rates of heart disease.

The current study investigated the relationship between the total antioxidant content of a woman’s diet and her subsequent risk for a heart attack. “Our study was the first to look at the effect of all dietary antioxidants in relation to myocardial infarction,” lead study author Dr. Alicja Wolk of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said in a statement. “Total antioxidant capacity measures in a single value all antioxidants present in diet and the synergistic effects between them.”

The study included data on 32,561 Swedish women (average age 61), who were followed for a 10-year period. None of the women had heart disease at the start of the study.

The women filled out questionnaires about how often they ate certain types of foods, and researchers calculated total antioxidants from their reported diets. Most of the antioxidants (44%) in women’s diets came from fruits and vegetables, and participants who ate seven servings of fruits or vegetables each day took in the most antioxidants. Women who had the most antioxidants in their diet had a 20% lower risk of heart attack compared with those who had the least. These women also had a lower number of strokes than women who ate fewer antioxidants.

There were a few caveats to the study. For example, women might not have accurately remembered what they ate when asked on the survey. It’s also possible that the reduced heart risks may result from a healthier overall diet or other healthy lifestyle choices in women who eat a lot of antioxidants. Regardless, it’s never a bad idea to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your eating regimen.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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