More than two-thirds of heart disease-related deaths around the world could be prevented if people focussed on eating a healthier diet, researchers have said.

A Chinese team say an unhealthy diet is the number one lifestyle reason that people die from heart disease, a study has found.

Gorging on junk food, sugary snacks and processed ingredients has been found to be worse than high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and drinking as the leading avoidable killer.

The research looked at nearly nine million deaths which were caused from hearts attacks and angina and found a better diet may well have prevented around two-thirds of the deaths.

Senior study author Dr Xinyao Liu, from the Central South University, said: “Our analysis shows that unhealthy diets, high blood pressure, and high serum cholesterol are the top three contributors to deaths from heart attacks and angina—collectively called ischaemic heart disease. This was consistent in both developed and developing countries.”

“More than 6 million deaths could be avoided by reducing intake of processed foods, sugary beverages, trans and saturated fats, and added salt and sugar, while increasing intake of fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.

“Ideally, we should eat 200 to 300 mg of omega 3 fatty acids from seafood each day. On top of that, every day, we should aim for 200 to 300 grams of fruit, 290 to 430 grams of vegetables, 16 to 25 grams of nuts, and 100 to 150 grams of whole grains.”

The research took into account 11 lifestyle factors which are commonly associated with early death. These were drinking, smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, weight, air pollution, lead exposure and impaired kidney function.

The deaths of those included in the study were taken from 195 countries between 1190 and 2017 and records showed how each individual how they had lived so the researchers were able to work out how their behaviour may have impacted their death.

The findings suggested poor diet caused 69.2% of heart-related deaths, followed by 54.4% of people dying from high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol were linked to 40% of deaths.

Dr Liu added: “While progress has been made in preventing heart disease and improving survival, particularly in developed countries, the numbers of people affected continues to rise because of population growth and ageing.”

The findings have been published in the European Heart Journal – Quality of Care and Clinical Outcomes.

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