Women who ate a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables as young adults were much less likely to have plaque build-up in their arteries 20 years later compared with those who consumed lower amounts of these foods, according to research. This new finding reinforces the importance of developing healthy eating habits early in life.
Previous studies have found that middle-aged adults whose diet consists of a high proportion of fruits and vegetables are less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, but the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption during young adulthood and heart disease later in life was less clear. To study this concept, researchers evaluated the association between dietary intake of fruits and vegetables in young adults and the presence of coronary artery calcification (CAC) 20 years later. CAC scores, which were obtained using a CT scan, provide a direct estimate of the amount of plaque in the coronary arteries.
“It's an important question because lifestyle behaviors, such as a heart healthy diet, are the foundation of cardiovascular prevention and we need to know what dietary components are most important,” said Michael D. Miedema, M.D., M.P.H., a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute, and the lead investigator of the study.
Specifically, women who …
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may reduce risk for heart attack later in life, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session. After analysis, researchers found that women consuming the highest amount of fruits and vegetables (8-9 servings a day) during their 20s were 40% less likely to have plaque build-up in their 40s compared to those who ate the least amount (3-4 servings a day) during the same time period. Surprisingly, the same benefit did not ring true for men in this study, which experts believe warrants further investigation. Still, lead investigator of the study Michael D. Miedema, MD, MPH, believes that findings “confirm the concept that plaque development is a lifelong process, and that process can be slowed down with a healthy diet at a young age.” Since eating habits are established early in life, Miedema emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy diet starting at a young age. And according to the 2011 U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary guidelines, a healthy diet should include at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit a day.
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