CHICAGO -- A large study offers the strongest evidence yet that a diet the government recommends for lowering blood pressure can save people from heart attack and stroke.
Researchers followed more than 88,000 healthy women for almost 25 years. They examined their food choices and looked at how many had heart attacks and strokes. Those who fared best had eating habits similar to those recommended by the government to stop high blood pressure.
The plan, called the DASH diet, favors fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and plant-based protein over meat.
Women with those eating habits were 24% less likely to have a heart attack and 18% less likely to have a stroke than women with more typical American diets.
Those are meaningful reductions since these diseases are so common. About two in five U.S. women at age 50 will eventually develop cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks and strokes. Women in the study were in their mid-30s to late 50s when the research began in 1980.
Previous research has shown this kind of diet can help prevent high blood pressure and cholesterol, which both can lead to heart attacks.
The new study appears in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine.