Cereal Fiber: High Intake of Fiber Boosts Longevity of Heart Attack Survivors

First Posted: Apr 30, 2014 06:48 AM EDT

Adhering to a high fiber diet helps heart attack survivors live longer, a new study reveals.

Fiber that is essential for a healthy digestive system is known to offer several other potential health benefits that include a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. Providing further evidence on this, a new study led by U.S. researchers claims that higher intake of cereal fiber after a myocardial infarction boosts long term survival rates.

According to the researchers, heart attack survivors who consumed more fiber have a 25 percent lower risk of dying, even nine years after the attack compared to their counterparts who consumed less fiber.  Increasing the intake of fiber everyday by 10g was strongly linked to a 15 percent lower risk of dying over the nine-year follow up period.

Since the number of people surviving heart attacks has risen over the recent years, it is extremely crucial to identify certain lifestyle changes that can be made alongside taking medication, in order to enhance the long-term health prospects of the person.

Several pieces of research conducted earlier showed how high dietary fiber intake reduced the risk of coronary heart disease. But this is the first study to investigate the association between high intake of cereal fiber and improved long term survival after heart attack.

For this study the researchers examined the data taken from two U.S. studies including the Nurses' Health Study of 121,700 female nurses and the Health Professional Follow-up Study of 51,529 male health professionals. Participants in both the studies completed questionnaire that enquired about their lifestyle habits every two years.

The researchers studied 2,258 women and 1,840 men who survived the first myocardial infarction (MI) or heart attack during the course of the study.  The participants were followed for an average of nine years after their heart attack during which 682 women and 451 men died.

As a part of the study, the researcher divided the participants in to five different groups (quintiles) based on their intake of fiber after heart attack.

Individuals belonging to the top quintile had a 25 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause during the nine years after heart attack compared to the participants from the last quintile. On looking at the just the cardiovascular causes of death, the top quintile had 13 percent reduced mortality risk than the other counterparts.

In the study the researchers looked at three type of fiber -cereal, fruit and vegetable. They have seen that only cereal fiber has a strong link with enhanced long term survival after heart attack.

The researchers point out that, "heart attack survivors have a higher risk of dying than the general population and are often more motivated to make changes to their lifestyle - yet treatment to improve their chances of living longer generally neglects the importance of a healthier lifestyle in favour of long-term medication. Future research on lifestyle changes post-MI should focus on a combination of lifestyle changes and how they may further reduce mortality rates beyond what is achievable by medical management alone."

Dietary fiber is known to improve blood lipid levels and lower the risk of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Despite this, less than 5 percent of the U.S. people consume the minimum recommended fiber intake of 25g per for women and 38 g per day for men.

The study was published in

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