Harvard Heart Letter

Longer life after heart attack

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After a heart attack, people live longer if they significantly improve their diet, a Harvard study suggests.

Researchers led by Eric Rimm, associate professor of medicine and nutrition at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, analyzed self-reported dietary data from thousands of heart attack survivors: 2,258 women in the Nurses' Health Study and 1,840 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Median survival after heart attack was about nine years.

But some survived much longer than others. The one-fifth of study subjects who most improved their diet were 24% less likely to die from any cause and 26% less likely to die of heart-related causes than the one-fifth of subjects who made the fewest dietary changes. These changes included eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains, and consuming less red meat, processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, alcohol, polyunsaturated fat, trans fat, and salt.

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