Heart failure risk in older adults may increase with high protein diet and processed red meat intake. For their study, the researchers reviewed self-reported diets of 103,878 women over the age of 50. Of the participants, 1,711 went on to develop heart failure. The researchers found that high intake of dietary protein was associated with an increased heart failure risk.
On the other hand, the source of dietary protein was key in determining the risk of heart failure. Those women who derived majority of their dietary protein from plant sources did not have a high risk of heart failure, compared to the women whose dietary protein came mainly from meat.
Study author Mohamad Firas Barbour explained, “Higher calibrated total dietary protein intake appears to be associated with substantially increased heart failure risk while vegetable protein intake appears to be protective, although additional studies are needed to further explore this potential association.”
The findings were true regardless of race, age, and ethnicity, level of education, or blood pressure.
Barbour added, “Our findings should be interpreted with caution, but it appears that following a high-protein diet may increase heart failure risk.”
Self-reported information can often be unreliable, and in order to verify their findings the researchers used special biomarker data to accurately calibrate daily protein intake. “We used self-reported intakes of total dietary protein and the quantity of protein women obtained from meat and vegetables based upon the Food Frequency Questionnaire,” continued Barbour.
“While a better understanding of dietary risk is still needed, it appears that heart failure among postmenopausal women is not only highly prevalent but preventable by modifying diet. Heart failure is highly prevalent, especially in post-menopausal women. Therefore, a better understanding of nutrition-related factors associated with heart failure is needed,” he concluded.
Risk of heart failure incidence and mortality increases in men who eat moderate amounts of processed red meat
The risk of heart failure incidences and mortality increases in men who eat moderate amounts of processed red meat, according to an alternative study. Senior author of the study Alicja Wolk explained, “Processed red meat commonly contains sodium, nitrates, phosphates, and other food additives, and smoked and grilled meats also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, all of which may contribute to the increased heart failure risk. Unprocessed meat is free from food additives and usually has a lower amount of sodium.”
The study included 37,035 men over the age of 45 with no history of heart failure, ischemic heart disease, or cancer. Participants completed questionnaires about their food intake and other lifestyle habits.
After 12 years, the researchers uncovered the following:
- Heart failure was diagnosed in 2,891 men, and 266 men died of heart failure.
- Men with the highest intake of processed meat had 28 percent higher risk of heart failure, compared to those who consumed the least.
- Men with the highest intake of processed meat had double the risk of death as a result of heart failure.
- For every 50 grams of processed meat added into the men’s diet, the risk of heart failure climbed eight percent, while heart failure mortality risk rose 28 percent.
- Heart failure risk and heart failure mortality risk did not increase in those who consumed the least amount of processed meat.
Study lead author Joanna Kaluza added “To reduce your risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases, we suggest avoiding processed red meat in your diet, and limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to one to two servings per week or less. Instead, eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, nuts, and increase your servings of fish.”
A heart-healthy diet should focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts all the while limiting red meat and sugary beverages.
Heart-healthy diet may reduce heart failure symptoms
Putting together a heart-healthy diet plan is highly important. While it may sound like a tedious task, you might be pleasantly surprised at the number of foods that you can still enjoy.
A diet for heart failure patients resembles the type of diet we should all be following. As the American Heart Association points out, a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups is good for our overall well-being, not just our heart.
Here are some foods to eat to prevent or manage heart failure:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Low-fat dairy products
- Whole grain products
- Skinless poultry and fish
- Non-tropical oils, such as olive, safflower, soybean, and sunflower
- Nuts and legumes
- Dark chocolate
Adjusting cooking methods can also be helpful. For example, poaching, steaming, and baking are all healthier ways to prepare food.
Now let’s look at some foods to avoid for heart failure:
- Foods high in saturated or trans fat (fried foods, fast food, baked goods)
- Foods high in sugar or salt (canned foods, processed foods, potato chips, chocolate cake, ice cream)
- Foods high in cholesterol (meats, eggs, butter)
If you have heart failure, you need to avoid foods that have a lot of saturated fats and trans fats, because these fats can build up in the blood and eventually clog or block your blood vessels, leading to a heart attack. Salt can cause blood pressure to rise and increase the risk of a heart attack. You have likely heard that cholesterol is a contributor to heart disease, and this is why heart failure patients have to be careful about their cholesterol levels. Produced by the liver, cholesterol is basically a material that is much like fat. It clogs arteries and can cause them to harden. You should limit your intake to less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.
The Mediterranean diet has been often praised for its ability to improve heart health, so you may consider eating more in line with this style of eating in order to keep your heart healthy.