Surviving a heart attack or stroke should prompt people to examine the behaviours and habits that got them there. But too many ignore the warnings.
Research shows that continuing to consume high volumes of ultra-processed foods after a heart attack or stroke dramatically increases the chances of it happening again.
In a new study, researchers have demonstrated just how big an influence those foods have on the likelihood of suffering another cardiovascular event.
Continuing to consume high amounts of ultra-processed foods can result in a two-thirds increased risk of a second heart attack or stroke. This second event is also much more likely to be fatal.
The researchers also found a 40 per cent increase in the risk of dying from any cause.
Ultra-processed foods are products that have been altered substantially from the original wholefood ingredients. Manufacturers often formulate these products to be tasty, easy to prepare and cheap.
The products often contain very little, if any, raw food ingredients and may contain fats, salt, preservatives, stabilisers, food colouring, artificial flavouring and refined grains.
“It is important to underline that the definition of UPF [ultra-processed foods] is not linked to the nutritional content, but rather to the process used for its preparation and storage,” lead study author Dr Marialaura Bonnacio told Medical News Today.
“In other words, even if a food is nutritionally balanced, it might still be considered ultra-processed.”
The definition of ultra-processed foods is broad, but generally means they contain ingredients deemed to be ‘unhealthy’.
They include sweet or savoury packaged snacks such as ice cream, chocolate and potato chips; many breakfast cereals and energy bars; processed fruit juices and yoghurts; ready-to-heat meat products such as sausages, burgers, hot dogs and chicken nuggets, as well as powdered sauces, soups and noodles.
Heart attacks and stroke account for more than 40,000 deaths in Australia each year, with an estimated 161 heart events occurring each day.
The Heart Foundation says that your diet after a heart attack or stroke is one of the most crucial determiners of whether you will suffer another occurrence.
“Having a healthy diet has many benefits and will reduce your chances of having another heart attack, help reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure, help you feel healthier and have more energy, help you reach and stay at a healthy weight,” the Heart Foundation says.
Make sure you’re eating plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits and wholegrains (like brown rice and wholegrain bread) and a variety of different lean proteins (eggs, lean chicken or fish, legumes).
Avoid ultra-processed foods and choose reduced-fat dairy products. If it’s impossible to avoid fat, use healthier fats such as those found in avocados, olives, nuts and seeds and cooking oils made from those items.
How often do you eat ultra-processed foods? Could you improve your heart health through changes to your diet? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Disclaimer:This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.