Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

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Stock up on fatty fish, nuts, olive oil, fruits and vegetables for better cardiovascular health, new study reports.

Health care advocates have long been touting the benefits of a Mediterranean diet based on simple observational studies. Now there is actual proof that a diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and red wine (in place of other alcoholic beverages) can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a 5-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The findings of the study: About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they make the switch to this style of eating.

More than 7,000 people ranging in age from 55 to 80 years old participated in the study. To be eligible, participants had to have either type 2 diabetes or three of known heart disease risk factors including high blood pressure, smoking, overweight or obesity, family history of early coronary heart disease, elevated LDL level, and/or low HDL level.

Those who followed the Mediterranean ­diets were advised to emphasize olive oil, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, poultry instead of red meat, a sauce called “sofrito” (made by simmering herbs, garlic, tomatoes and oil together), and red wine with dinner, if they drank alcohol.

Key Components of the Mediterranean Diet

According to the Mayo Clinic, a Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)


For breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes that adhere to a Mediterranean diet, go to Mayo Clinic Mediterranean Recipes.