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Heart attack: The best cooking oil for reducing your risk of a heart attack

This Morning: Dr Chris discusses heart disease

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A heart attack is a serious medical emergency whereby the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a build-up of cholesterol. This deadly mechanism falls under the umbrella of heart disease. Fortunately, you can avert a heart attack by overhauling unhealthy aspects of your lifestyle.

Diet holds the key and certain items have been singled out for their heart-healthy properties.

According to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions, olive oil may help lower the risk of heart disease.

The study also found it beneficial as a substitute for butter or mayonnaise.

“Previous studies have linked high consumption of olive oil with better cardiovascular health, particularly in Mediterranean countries where olive oil intake is much higher than in the United States,” said study lead author Marta Guasch-Ferre.

“Our aim was to investigate whether higher olive oil consumption was beneficial to heart health in the U.S. population,” said Guasch-Ferre, a research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

The study examined 63,867 women and 35,512 men from 1990 to 2014.

All participants were free of cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases at the start of the study.

Every four years, they answered questionnaires about their diet and lifestyle.

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Researchers found those who ate more than half a tablespoon of olive oil each day had a 15 percent lower risk of having any kind of cardiovascular disease and a 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Replacing one teaspoon of butter, margarine, mayonnaise or dairy fat with the same amount of olive oil lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by five percent and coronary heart disease by seven percent.

However, consuming more olive oil didn’t impact stroke risk.

Although olive oil proved to be healthier than butter and margarine, it did not present more benefits than other plant oils like corn, canola, safflower and soybean.

“One interesting thing our study shows is that although olive oil was better than most animal fats and margarine, it was not superior to vegetable oils in this study population,” Guasch-Ferre said.

“This means that replacing any type of animal fat with vegetable oils, including olive oil but also others, could be a good strategy to improve cardiovascular health.”

Researchers noted many margarines contained substantial amounts of trans fatty acids when the study began in 1990, so the results may not apply to vegetable margarines now available.

The findings were also observational, which means they don’t prove cause-and-effect.

However, small intervention studies have found replacing animal fats with olive oil has a beneficial effect on fat levels in the blood.

“Future research is needed to investigate the mechanisms behind this association as well as the effects of other vegetable oils on heart health,” Guasch-Ferre said.

Heart attack – symptoms to watch out for

Symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • Chest pain – the chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, and pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak or lightheaded, or both
  • An overwhelming feeling of anxiety.

It’s important to note that not everyone experiences severe chest pain.

“This is particularly the case with many women. The pain can often be mild and mistaken for indigestion,” explains the NHS.

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