Everyone knows that one of the best ways to protect your heart from heart disease, heart attack or stroke is to eat healthy. But there is so much conflicting information out there that it can be incredibly difficult to know just what to eat and what not to eat. It seems like every other day there is another bit of research or study released showing contradictory claims to a heart healthy diet.

More than half of Americans have tried a diet in the past year to potentially improve the overall health of their heart, according to a new survey conducted by Cleveland Clinic. Yet only 5 percent have adopted theMediterranean diet – the single diet proven through extensive research to improve cardiovascular risk factors.

Why? Unhealthy diet choices are likely due to two things: confusion and convenience, says Steven Nissen, MD, Chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic.


Fat is the Heart’s Enemy, Right?

For decades, physicians and researchers have been drilling it into our heads – avoid fat, fat is bad, fat leads to clogged arteries and heart attack or stroke. The single message that many adults with heart conditions hear is that fat is the enemy.

According to Cleveland Clinic, since the 1960s, all consumer food products have been required to include honest labels. In 1990, food label terms like “low fat” were standardized. And in 2003, the FDA announced labels were required to include trans-fat content, strengthening our obsession with fat.

Physicians and researchers have worked so hard for so long to alert us to the unhealthy habits of too much fat, and yet at the same time studies have began emerging telling us that certains fats are okay – even healthy.


The Mediterranean Diet

We’ve written and discussed the Mediterranean Diet in length before on, and many of our readers should be familiar with how important this diet is for those living with cardiovascular conditions, but there is still so much confusion regarding the healthy fats within this heart healthy diet.

Let’s take a look at some stats from Cleveland Clinic:

The PREDIMED study found that for people at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events by 30 percent.

Not only did the control group maintain a low-fat, American Heart Association-approved diet, the study group was asked to use and cook with 1 liter of olive oil per week. This is what makes this study important for patients, Dr. Nissen says.

But all of this can be confusing, which causes many adults living with heart disease to avoid the issue all together and go for the most convenient option – fast foods.

According to Cleveland Clinic, survey responses unveiled that one-third of Americans’ diets are negatively impacted by the convenience of unhealthy food options – like vending machines or fast food restaurants.

While men were slightly more likely to choose ‘junk’ food over women (38 percent vs. 30 percent), 25 percent of all respondents blame both time and social influence for their poor diet habits.



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