If you follow a Southern type of diet, you may have a higher risk of sudden cardiac death, according to a study published in the American Heart Association journal.
On the other hand, if you routinely consume a Mediterranean diet, this risk may be lower. The southern style of diet is known for added fats, fried foods, organ meats, processed meats, eggs, and drinks laden with sugar.
A Mediterranean diet is abundant in veggies, fish, fruits, legumes, and whole grains whereas the intake of meat and dairy is minimal.
Southern Diet Puts People at Higher Risk of Cardiac Death
Despite its observational nature, this study points out that a diet is a modifiable factor for sudden cardiac death and therefore, a factor we have some control over.
The head of the study and professor of medicine and associate director for research at the University of Alabama, James M. Shikany says that by bettering our diet and adding more fruits, veggies, fish, and whole grains and reducing the intake of fried foods, organ meat, and processed meats, we’re lowering the chances of cardiac death.
How Was the Study Conducted?
For the purposes of the study, the data from 21,000 people ages 45 or older enrolled in an ongoing national research project known as REGARDS, was collected.
Of the participants, 56 percent were women, 33 percent were black adults, and 56 percent lived in the southeast of the US. This region is also known as the Stroke Belt due to its higher risk of strokes.
The states from this part that were included in the study were Louisiana, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
The goal was to find the link between cardiovascular illness and diet, that is, which foods have a positive and which foods have a negative effect on the health of the heart.
Unfortunately, sudden cardiac death is a major cause of death and was the reason for 1 in every 7.5 deaths in the US in 2016 or around 367,000 deaths according to statistics from the American Heart Association from 2019.
The participants were with and without a history of coronary heart illness at the start of the study. The researchers assessed their diets using a food frequency questionnaire that was done at the start of the study.
They were asked to tell how often and in what amounts they had consumed 110 different foods in the previous year.
The researchers derived five diet patterns that weren’t mutually exclusive since all of the participants adhered to each pattern to some level, but usually more to some and less to other patterns.
What Did the Results Show?
After almost a decade of follow-up, every six months of checkups for heart disease events, more than 400 sudden cardiac deaths had happened in the participants.
Overall, the ones who consumed a Southern-style diet had a 46 percent higher chance of dying from a cardiac-related problem than the people who followed this diet less often.
What’s more, those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a 26 percent lower chance of dying from a cardiac-related issue than those who followed this diet the least.
According to Stephen Juraschek, member of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee of the Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Council, the findings from this study support the claim that healthier nutrition may help avert cardiovascular illness and motivate people to follow a healthier lifestyle.