The Mediterranean way of life, not just diet, may benefit heart health, according to a study.

The Mediterranean eating routine has for some time been commended for its positive medical advantages, yet new exploration tracked down that a Mediterranean way of life — including yet not restricted to eat less — may explicitly support heart health.1

While the Mediterranean eating routine, with its emphasis on organic product, vegetables, olive oil, entire grains, fish, and lean meats, is useful for a horde of wellbeing reasons, scientists found that the way of life encompassing the eating routine merited stressing.

John P. Higgins, MD, a cardiovascular medicine professor at the UTHealth Houston McGovern Medical School who was not involved in the new study, stated, “It’s not just the diet, it is also the other environmental factors that benefit us.”

Mediterranean diet to improve health and wellness,” Dr. Higgins continued.

It may sound overwhelming to follow a certain lifestyle, but the Mediterranean way of life is fairly straightforward. For these heart-healthy routines to take hold, all that is required is a shift in diet, physical activity, and social life that lasts for a long time.

Understanding the Effects of a Lifestyle On February 28, 2023, the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle, and Cardiometabolic Health conference in Boston featured new findings that support a Mediterranean lifestyle for heart health.

More than 110,000 participants in the U.K. Biobank cohort who were between the ages of 40 and 69 provided the researchers with data. In order to fully comprehend how their lifestyles affected their ongoing well-being, these participants were followed from 2006 to 2020.

The team measured how well each participant in the study adhered to a Mediterranean lifestyle using a 26-point Mediterranean lifestyle (MEDLIFE) index in order to comprehend the data points behind these factors. This included what people ate, how they ate, whether they snacked or added salt to their food, whether they ate with family and friends, how often they were sedentary and how often they did physical activity with others, how often they socialized, and how much sleep they got each night.1 The team followed up after about 9.5 years, taking death records and the causes of death (cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all other causes). They discovered that adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Compared to those with the lowest level of adherence, those with the highest level of adherence had a 30% lower risk of dying from heart disease or cancer.

According to Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, PhD, an adjunct assistant professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health and the first author of the new study, “Meals are something that happen around the family and friends.” This highlights the significance of the social aspects of a Mediterranean lifestyle. Research has shown that isolation and loneliness both increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. One of the most important aspects that the new study looks at is the idea of conviviality, which she mentioned. The idea is not about what people eat but rather how they eat. This was measured in the study by sharing meals.

According to Sotos-Prieto’s explanation, “this is something very characteristic of the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle, the pleasure of sharing meals that fosters a sense of community.” That time when we talk casually while enjoying our food.

According to Sotos-Prieto, social habits were also linked to doing physical activity with others, like going for a walk, and how frequently people attended various life-relevant social events, like going to church.3 At their core, these kinds of social interactions foster opportunities for hospitality and social support systems. The stress that strains the cardiovascular system can be reduced with this support. This can have a significant impact on a person’s overall health when combined with exercise, such as going for a walk with a friend.

What a person eats may also be influenced by the company they are in when they eat.

Jenifer Bowman, RD, a registered dietitian at UCHealth in Fort Collins, Colorado, stated, “I have a lot of patients who are single and they are eating alone. I find that they are less likely to plan and prepare a healthy, balanced meal for themselves, and then their nutrition is being compromised.”

Individuals may naturally make decisions that are more nutritious and heart-healthy by simply sharing a meal with someone—family, friends, or a roommate.

How Eating Habits Affect Heart Health According to Bowman, the Mediterranean meal plan’s early research sought to identify a single nutrient that reduced the risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s not just one individual nutrient, it’s the power of all of these nutrients all together that makes the Mediterranean meal plan overall healthier,” she emphasized.

Fruits and vegetables are emphasized in this eating style, which provides antioxidants and fiber at the same time. It also encourages beans, which are higher in fiber, and whole grains.

According to Bowman’s explanation, “Fiber takes some work for your digestive system to break down, so you have a more gradual rise in your blood sugar with foods with higher fiber.” Additionally, fiber can bind to cholesterol and aid in its removal from our digestive tract, assisting in overall cholesterol management.

These foods, including Omega-3 fatty acids, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, according to Sotos-Prieto. They also increase levels of nitric oxide, a gas that controls the dilation of blood vessels and, as a result, the flow of blood, which improves heart function. According to Dr. Higgins, these foods also reduce the risk of irregular heartbeats and slow the formation of plaque that hardens and blocks the arteries.

Following a Mediterranean Diet Bowman advised keeping it simple for the sake of sustainability if someone wanted to start following a Mediterranean diet.

She stated to Health, “Your perception of what healthy eating is often more complicated than it actually is.” It is a huge myth that it must only consist of fresh vegetables and fruits. Fine with frozen.

Lean meat, such as skinless chicken breasts, provides healthy protein without adding saturated fat if fatty fish is unavailable. She stated that avoiding processed and prepackaged meals whenever possible is essential.

She added, “People in this [Mediterranean] region are not eating macaroni and cheese and frozen pizza,” noting that three-quarters of your plate should be made up of plant-based foods.

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