Southern US diet ups risk of heart attack: Study

11 August 2015

Fried food, sweet tea and other foods synonymous with the Southern US diet might raise risk of heart attack and death, according to a new study.

"If their overall pattern of eating seems to closely match those components, they may want to move away from that," said lead researcher James Shikany, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, of people who consumed Southern diet, Reuters reported.

The American Heart Association said, about 735,000 people in the US suffered heart attacks each year, and about 120,000 died as a result.

To prevent heart attacks and heart disease, which was the leading cause of death for both men and women, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice people to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and diet, and not smoke.

Earlier studies mostly focused on individual foods or parts of the diet that might be tied to an elevated risk of heart disease, however, researchers these days were looking "at overall diet as opposed to a specific nutrient or a specific food," Shikany told Reuters Health.

For the new study, Shikany and his colleagues used data collected from 17,418 people aged 45 or older from across the US.

The researchers compared the dietary habits of over 17,000 white and African-American adults in different regions of the US, and found that people who regularly ate fried foods, fatty foods, eggs, processed meats, such as bacon and ham, organ meats like liver, and sugary drinks ran a higher risk for suffering a heart attack or heart-related death during the next 5.8 years.

People whose regular diet fell in the Southern dietary pattern ran a 56 per cent higher risk of heart disease as against those who ate it less frequently.

The Southern diet was consumed mostly by male, African-Americans and those who had not been to high school or were residents of southern states.

According to Shikany, regardless of gender, race, or where people lived, if people frequently ate a Southern-style diet they needed to be aware of the risk of heart disease and try to make some gradual changes to their diet.

He added, people should try cutting down the number of times they ate fried foods or processed meats, and then from daily to three days a week as a start.

The journal Circulation has published the study.

Men and women who adapt their daily diet to meet current UK dietary guidelines could reduce their risk of a heart attack or a stroke by up to a third, according to a new study by King's College London.

(See: Healthy diet lowers risk of heart disease by a third)

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