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People with Heart Disease Fare Better with Mediterranean Diet than the US Southern Diet

Processed Meats Linked to Heart Disease and Cancer

Just how important diet is was brought home recently by a large study that showed that following an US Southern Diet could prove deadly for people with heart disease. The results of this study were published July 12, 2018, in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The Study

For 7.1 years researchers from the University of Alabama followed after 3562 participants age 45 or older who had existing coronary heart disease (CHD). The study included 30% of participants from the stroke belt (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana), 20% from the stroke buckle (the coastal plain of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia), and 50% from elsewhere in the continental United States. During this time there were 581 recurrent CHD events and 1098 deaths. The US Southern diet was associated with a greater chance of all-cause death, but was not associated with a risk for recurrent CHD events. The Mediterranean Diet was associated with a lower rate of both recurrent CHD events and all-cause death.

The South is also the Obesity Belt

Reports show that the south in particular has the highest amounts of obesity in the United States.

West Virginia was found to have the highest rate of obesity in the nation 38.1%%

  1. West Virginia 38.1%
  2. Mississippi  37.3%
  3. Oklahoma 36.5%
  4. Iowa 36.4%
  5. Alabama 36.3%
  6. Louisiana 36.2%
  7. Arkansas 35%
  8. Kentucky 34.3%


The US Southern Diet is:

  • High in processed meats such as ham, bacon, salami, corned beef, pastrami, hot dogs, sausages and beef jerky. Research has shown that processed meats also are a high risk for colorectal and stomach cancer.
  • High in added fats
  • High in sugar flavored drinks
  • High in fried food
  • High in eggs
  • High in organ meats

The Mediterranean Diet is:

  • High in extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • High in fresh vegetables and fruits
  • High in Fish
  • High in whole grains
  • High in legumes
  • Low in red meat and dairy

Heart Disease

Heart disease is still the number one leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women in spite of decades of research and treatment improvements. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 610,000 people die every year of heart disease in the US (1 in 4 deaths). About 735,000 Americans have a heart attack every year (525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 are to people who already had one or more previous heart attacks). About 15% of people who have a heart attack will die because of it.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

  • Cigarette Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Excessive alcohol drinking
  • Unhealthy levels of certain kinds of cholesterol in the blood

Signs of a Heart Attack

A heart attack happens when the blood supply to the heart is blocked and cut off. This causes damage to the heart and the longer the blood flow to the heart is cut off the greater will be the amount of heart damage and the greater will be the chance of dying.

The signs someone is having a heart attack are similar to other disease conditions, so they are sometimes ignored and unfortunately the result is that 47% of sudden cardiac deaths take place outside of the hospital. Do not take chances and if you or your loved one are having any of these symptoms phone 911 right away. The sooner treatment is started the better is the chance for survival.

  • Chest pain or a tight feeling that does not go away after a few minutes
  • Upper body pain such as pain in the jaw, neck, stomach or back
  • Weakness
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Nausea
  • A cold sweat
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder, especially the left arm
  • Shortness of breath

Heart Attacks can Lead to Congestive Heart Failure

Surviving a heart attack can leave someone with congestive heart failure whereby the heart still works, but in a limited way. See our blog post from June 29, 2018 about congestive heart failure.

Researchers Hope that the Fear of Having another Heart Attack will Lead People with Heart Disease to Lifestyle Changes

Since experiencing a heart attack is a very frightening experience, the researchers hope that this will inspire people to make lifestyle changes such as:

  • Substituting extra virgin olive oil for butter
  • Cutting down on amounts of processed meats eaten weekly
  • Adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to the diet
  • Eating more fish and less red meat

Rehabilitation after a Heart Attack or Surgery

The Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center in Brooklyn NY, a 5-star facility is known for its expertise in heart care and offers cardio and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. They also have an outstanding post cardiac surgery exercise program and a lifestyle modification program to reduce the risks for further coronary problems.

Brooklyn Hospitals near Ditmas Park

New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn (formerly named NYU Lutheran Medical Center)

SUNY Downstate Medical Center – University Hospital of Brooklyn

NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County

Maimonides Medical Center


Following correct eating habits may prevent heart disease and also may prevent a new heart attack in someone who already has had one or more heart attacks. Processed meats may taste good, but they are associated with the highest rates for heart disease and also colorectal cancer.


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