Researchers have found that 45 per cent of all deaths in the United States due to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes are associated with ten bad dietary habits, including a high intake of salt and too little fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
The study looked at 702,308 known cardiometabolic or CMD deaths (those concerning heart disease and metabolic disorders like diabetes) in the US in 2012 and found that 45.4 per cent or 318,656 of these deaths were linked to poor dietary consumption of ten specific factors.
Researchers used comparative risk assessment models to track the numbers of CMD deaths connected to poor dietary intake and arrived at the ten commonly observed poor nutrition habits through analysis of two National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys conducted in 1999-2002 and 2009-2012.
The study found that the factor connected to the highest proportion of CMD was excess sodium intake, which was associated in 9.5 per cent of CMD deaths. Other top-of- the-list dietary no-no’s were low intake of nuts and seeds (8.5 per cent), high intake of processed meats (8.2 per cent) and low fruit and vegetable intake (7.6 and 7.5 per cent respectively).
In total, the list of top contributors contains six dietary items that many people need to eat more of: nuts and seeds, seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and polyunsaturated fats, along with four items we need to consume less of: sodium, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat.
Supported by the US National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the research shows how a large percentage of deaths due to cardiovascular disease and diabetes are linked to poor diet, a finding which should inform national food and nutritions policies, say the study’s authors. “These results should help identify priorities, guide public health planning, and inform strategies to alter dietary habits and improve health,” say the authors, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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Still the number one killer worldwide, cardiovascular disease is responsible for 29 per cent of all deaths in Canada each year. Along with an unhealthy diet, risk factors for heart disease and stroke include smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, stress and family history. According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, nine in ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and almost 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy behaviours.
At the same time, deaths due to heart disease have decreased significantly in both Canada and the US over the last half-century. The US Centres for Disease Control reports that since 1950, cardiovascular disease deaths have declined 60 per cent, while in Canada, the rate of CVD deaths dropped by 30 per cent between 1994 and 2004 alone. Experts attribute the declines to medical advances in treatment options, better prevention and fewer people smoking.