Mediterranean Diet Lowers Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke

This article was originally published on on February 25, 2013.  

The Mediterranean diet is a well-known weapon in the fight against heart disease, but exactly how effective is it? 

To find out, researchers led by Dr. Ramón Estruch, from the Department of Internal Medicine at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, put the Mediterranean diet to the test against a low-fat diet. 

They followed participants to track rates of heart attack, stroke and heart-disease-related death. After nearly five years, the results were so striking for one group that the study was stopped early, according to research published online by the New England Journal of Medicine. 

The group that showed the least heart problems and lowest rate of heart disease deaths? Those who ate a Mediterranean diet high in extra-virgin olive oil. Coming in at a close second were participants who ate a Mediterranean diet high in nuts. 

“We think the strength of this study comes from the fact that we measured hard outcomes and not just blood pressure or changes in cholesterol levels,” says Estruch. “We really believe the Mediterranean diet lowers incidence of (heart attack), stroke and cardiovascular deaths.”

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In the study, the participants in the Mediterranean diet groups agreed to replace red meat with white meat like chicken and eat three or more servings of fish each week, along with three or more servings of fruit and two or more servings of vegetables a day. 

The extra-virgin-olive-oil group also consumed more than four tablespoons of the oil a day, replacing regular olive oil with the extra-virgin variety, which contains more potentially heart-healthy compounds like polyphenols and vitamin-E tocopherols — which can lower levels of inflammatory factors that contribute to heart disease — in addition to oleic acids, which are lower in the saturated fat that can build up in blood vessels. 

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In honor of Heart Month, Meriter Women’s HeartCare held Ladies’ Night Out on February 26, at Olbrich Gardens. Catered by Bunky’s Cafe, the menu featured an array of heart-healthy Mediterranean cuisine. Inspiring conversations about heart health were led by members of Meriter Women’s HeartCare. Topics included the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet, the importance of staying active every day, an introduction to the behavior change process, and other topics tailored specifically to women’s heart health. 

To learn more about Meriter Women’s HeartCare program, call 608.417.6447 or visit






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