Eating a vegetarian diet slashes the risk of heart failure by almost half, scientists have discovered.
Those who swap processed meats and fatty foods for a mostly plant-based diet are 42 per cent less likely to develop heart failure.
A diet which includes whole grains, fish, beans, and dark green leafy plants lead to a heart-healthy lifestyle, scientists from Icahn School of Medicine in New York said.
Foods to avoid include refined carbohydrates, foods high in added sugars, trans fats, saturated fats and processed meats.
In a study conducted by Dr Kyla Lara, experts examined five diets which ranged from red meats, to plant based food, sweets and alcohol over four years.
Foods such as eggs, fried food, offal, alcohol and salads were not associated with a decreased risk for heart failure.
Coronary heart disease is responsible for almost 70,000 deaths in Britain each year – one in seven men and one in eleven women and an average of 190 people every day.
Internal medicine resident Dr Lara considered previous studies which show that what people eat can have an impact on atherosclerosis, the narrowing of the arteries that underlies heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.
The team used data collected for the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke, an observational study of risk factors for stroke in adults aged 45 and older.
A total of 15,559 participants reported their diets using a food frequency questionnaire keeping track of what they ate from five dietary patterns.
These were defined as convenience consisting of red meats, pastas, fried potatoes, fast foods, plant-based consisting of dark, leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, fish, sweets consisting of desserts, breads, sweet breakfast foods, chocolate, candy, southern consisting of eggs, fried food, organ meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol/salads consisting of salad dressings, green, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, wine, butter, liquor.
Of the five dietary patterns, greater adherence to the plant-based diet had the strongest association with a decreased risk of incident heart failure when adjusted for age, sex and race of the participants and for other risk factors.
No associations for the other four dietary patterns were found.
Dr Lara said: ‘Eating a diet mostly of dark green leafy plants, fruits, beans, whole grains and fish, while limiting processed meats, saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and foods high in added sugars is a heart-healthy lifestyle and may specifically help prevent heart failure if you don’t already have it.’
The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference in Anaheim, California.