We're all worried about our heart health these days—and rightfully so. Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, with other heart-related conditions not far behind. There are a whole lot of "heart healthy" and "anti-inflammatory" diets out there, but a new study from Wake Forest University found the DASH Diet in particular to be extremely effective in preventing heart conditions for those under 75—even more so than medication.
But before we begin, what is the DASH Diet, anyways?
The DASH Diet (it stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension") prioritizes whole grains, produce, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and low-fat or fat-free dairy while avoiding saturated fat, red meat, salt, sugary beverages, and tropical oils (think coconut and palm). Sound familiar?
The DASH Diet closely resembles the popular Mediterranean Diet guidelines—the only exceptions being a stricter stance on alcohol and the avoidance of full-fat dairy.
The study's researchers analyzed data from The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis—consisting of 4,478 participants from six different communities around the country. Their age range was between 45 and 84 years at the start, and none of them began the study with cardiovascular diseases. They went through 13 years of follow-up through 120-item dietary frequency questionnaires.
At first glance, the results showed the DASH Diet had little impact on heart health across the populations—until the results of those 75 and older were removed. Those under the age of 75 actually saw a 40 percent lower rate of heart failure if they closely adhered to the DASH Diet versus those who followed it the least.
Related: How to Follow the DASH Diet
"This research showed that following the DASH diet can reduce the risk of developing heart failure by almost half, which is better than any medicine," Claudia Campos, MD, lead author of the study, told Medical News Today.
Campos also noted that identifying "modifiable risk factors" for heart failure is an important public health goal—as the disease is so prevalent—and this research provides a framework for more studies on the DASH Diet's effects on heart failure prevention.
Related: Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
The bottom line: There's no such thing as a "miracle" diet, but this study does tout some pretty impressive heart health benefits. Plus, it seems pretty easy to abide by, as it is well-balanced and allows for plenty of delicious meals.
However, the DASH Diet is encouraged to work in unison with other healthy lifestyle behaviors—exercise, reducing stress, not smoking, getting enough sleep, among others. When it comes to heart health, diet is just one part of the equation—albeit a very important one!—and should work in tandem with other factors to keep that heart strong. Check out our Heart-Healthy Diet Center to get started on that cardiac diet, like our 7-Day Heart-Healthy Meal Plan, 7-Day DASH Diet Menu or even just a 1-Day Low-Cholesterol Meal Plan.
Pictured recipe: Chicken Fajita Bowls