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Eating Fiber May Help Prolong Life After Heart Attack

Image of human heart
(Image: © Human heart diagram via Shutterstock)

Eating more fiber may help heart-attack survivors live longer, according to a new study.

The study found that heart-attack survivors who ate the most fiber were 25 percent less likely to die over nine years than those who ate the least fiber. Every 10-gram increase in fiber intake per day corresponded to a 15 percent lower risk of dying during the study period.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data from large, ongoing studies of health professionals in the United States, and looked at 2,258 women and 1,840 men who survived a first heart attack. The participants in both studies completed questionnaires about their lifestyle habits, and the researchers followed the subjects for about nine years afterwards, during which 682 of the women and 451 of the men died.

The researchers divided the heart-attack survivors into five groups based on how much fiber they consumed after their heart attacks. Those who ate the most fiber — about 29 grams for the women and 37 grams for the men — were 25 percent more likely to survive the nine years than those who ate the least fiber (about 12 grams for the women and 16 grams for the men), according to the study. [5 Diets That Fight Diseases]

Heart-attack survivors are often motivated to make lifestyle changes to live longer, the researchers wrote. However, treatments for these patients often focus on long-term medication, rather than on a healthier lifestyle.

Future research "should focus on a combination of lifestyle changes and how they may further reduce mortality rates beyond what is achievable by medical management alone," the researchers wrote in their findings.

Previous research has shown that high dietary fiber intake may help decrease the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and colon cancer. In the study, cereal fiber turned out to be more beneficial than other fiber sources, the researchers said.

In the United States, the minimum recommended fiber intake is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. However, less than 5 percent of Americans consume this minimum.

The study was published online today (April 29) in the journal BMJ.

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