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These Foods May Help People With Heart Issues Live Longer, Study Says

Recent research suggests ALA-rich foods might be the key to longevity in those with heart disease.
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard

Almost half of all American adults reportedly face cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. Furthermore, the CDC notes that heart disease is the primary cause of death in the United States. Given these grim statistics, being proactive with respect to your heart health can literally be a matter of life and death.

Whether you've been diagnosed with a cardiovascular condition or just have general concerns about maintaining your heart health, there are scientifically proven steps you can take steps to help live longer, including being more mindful of what you eat. Recent research suggests that the inclusion of more plant-based foods into your diet, particularly those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, might be the key to increasing longevity for those with cardiovascular issues.

doctor checking someone's heart with a stethoscope

In an analysis that was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Aleix Sala-Vila, Ph.D., of the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona, and their colleagues took a look at data that had been collected from 905 people who were a mean age of 67 years old. All were heart failure patients whose cardiovascular issues stemmed from various causes. Those behind the study also noted the patients' levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid that can be found in plant-based foods.

A follow-up was done with the patients a median of 2.4 years later. In that time, 140 patients had died of all-cause deaths while 85 passed away due to cardiovascular-related deaths. When the researchers compared patients with the highest and lowest levels of ALA, they found that those with higher levels had a lower risk of a first hospitalization due to heart failure, cardiovascular death, and all-cause death.

"[I]nclusion of some ALA-rich foods, such as walnuts, in the diet of any individual, whether they have HF or not, might translate into [cardiovascular] benefits, besides the putative effect on [heart failure]," Sala-Vila said, according to Medscape.

"Any one of us can improve our diet at any time, and [doing so] will translate to a healthy aging," Sala-Vila reportedly told TCTMD.

"While this study is observational, it's another study in the growing body of research pointing to a positive relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and prevention or management of disease," Blair Persyn, MS, RDN, LDN, CNSC, a registered dietitian and owner of Bites With Blair, LLC, tells Eat This, Not That!

"ALA and omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent and manage heart disease through their effect on inflammation," Persyn says. "We know there is an inflammatory component to heart disease and other chronic illnesses."

"Nuts and seeds like walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds contain not only plant-based omega-3 fatty acids but also antioxidants, both of which help combat inflammation," Persyn adds.

As for getting more ALA into your system, Persyn claims that "adding more nuts and seeds to our diets can be as easy as sprinkling them on oatmeal, topping them onto salads, blending them into smoothies, or using them as a nut butter on sandwiches."

Desirée O
Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers lifestyle, food, and nutrition news among other topics. Read more about Desirée