Southern-style diet 'could increase risk of sudden cardiac death'

·2-min read

New research has shown indulging in a Southern-style diet of fatty food and sugary drinks could increase the risk of sudden cardiac death.

While following the Mediterranean way of eating fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fish may cut the chances of suffering from loss of heart function, a new study has also shown eating fried foods, processed meats, and fats have the opposite effect.

"While this study was observational in nature, the results suggest that diet may be a modifiable risk factor for sudden cardiac death, and, therefore, diet is a risk factor that we have some control over," said the study's lead author James M. Shikany, associate director for research in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"Improving one's diet - by eating a diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish such as the Mediterranean diet and low in fried foods, organ meats and processed meats, characteristics of the Southern-style dietary pattern, may decrease one's risk for sudden cardiac death."

Data from more than 21,000 people aged 45 and over was examined for the study, with participants enrolled between 2003 and 2007 in a national U.S. research project looking at strokes. Over half of the participants live in south-eastern U.S. which is often referred to as the Stroke Belt because of the high stroke rate. This includes the states North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana.

After checking the participants every six months for 10 years, more than 400 sudden cardiac deaths had occurred, with those regularly enjoying a Southern-style diet at a 46 per cent higher risk of the condition. Participants following a Mediterranean eating habit were 26 per cent less likely to have a sudden cardiac arrest.

"These findings support the notion that a healthier diet would prevent fatal cardiovascular disease and should encourage all of us to adopt a healthier diet as part of our lifestyles," said Stephen Juraschek, a member of the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee of the Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Council. "To the extent that they can, people should evaluate the number of servings of fruit and vegetables they consume each day and try to increase the number to at least 5-6 servings per day, as recommended by the American Heart Association. Optimal would be 8-9 servings per day."

Sudden cardiac arrest is the loss of heart function that leads to death within an hour of the onset of symptoms and is a common cause of death in America.

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