A heart attack is a serious medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot.
A lack of blood to the heart may seriously damage the heart muscle and can be life threatening.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of heart attacks, and certain foods have been shown to reduce a person’s risk of developing the deadly complication.
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According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, people who regularly eat a variety of nuts, including peanuts, walnuts and tree nuts, have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease compared to people who never or almost never eat nuts.
While many past studies focused on nut consumption as a whole, researchers in this study also investigated the association between specific types of nuts – peanut butter, peanuts, walnuts and tree nuts – with major cardiovascular events.
Peanuts were included even though they are actually a legume because they have a similar fatty acid and nutrient profile as other nuts.
To gather the findings, the research analysed data from over 210,000 people, including women from the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II and men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, with up to 32 years of follow up.
In all three groups, information about medical history, lifestyle and health conditions were collected via self-administered questionnaires every two years.
Throughout the study researchers documented 14,136 cardiovascular disease cases, including 8,390 coronary heart disease cases and 5,910 stroke cases.
The study found a consistent link between total nut consumption and total cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
Also, after looking at individual nut consumption, eating walnuts one or more times per week was associated with a 19 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.
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Participants who ate peanuts or tree nuts two or more times per week had a 13 percent and 15 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, respectively, and a 15 percent and 23 percent, lower risk of coronary heart disease, respectively, compared to those who never consumed nuts.
Participants who consumed five or more servings of nuts a week had a 14 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than participants who never or almost never consumed nuts.
“Our findings support recommendations of increasing the intake of a variety of nuts, as part of healthy dietary patterns, to reduce the risk of chronic disease in the general populations,” said Marta Guasch-Ferre, PhD, lead author of the study and research fellow at the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
How can eating nuts boost heart health?
According to Mayo Clinic, one way nuts may help your heart health is by lowering the low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels.
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High levels of LDL cholesterol plays a key role in the development of plaque that builds up on the blood vessels, which acts a precursor to cardiovascular complications such as heart disease and heart attacks.
In addition, eating more nuts has also been linked to lower levels of inflammation linked to heart disease, explains the health site.
It added: “Eating nuts may also reduce your risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack. Nuts also appear to improve the health of the lining of your arteries.”
Nuts are also a good source of unsaturated fats, which, as the NHS points out, have been shown to increase levels of good cholesterol and help reduce any blockage in your arteries.
In addition to nuts, other foods high in unsaturated fats include:
- Oily fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Sunflower, rapeseed, olive and vegetable oils
In addition to eating a healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise can help to stave off the risk of deadly cardiovascular complications.
One of the primary benefits of exercise is that it helps you to maintain a healthy weight, reducing your risk of high blood pressure – a dangerous precursor to heart disease and heart attacks.
The NHS said: “Regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol level, and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.”
What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
According to the NHS, symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- Chest pain – the chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, and pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling weak or lightheaded, or both
- An overwhelming feeling of anxiety
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