Vegetarian Diets Can Reduce Heart Disease Risk by Almost 50 Percent Compared to Eating Meat

New study says plant-based diets are the best for your heart. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Here's some news that will bring a sigh of relief to farm animals: Research from the American Heart Association indicates that plant-based diets might be the best choice to reduce heart failure, even for people that haven't previously had cardiac conditions. Heart failure occurs gradually and doesn't necessarily mean your heart stops working. Instead, the organ isn't strong enough to pump blood throughout your body or is unable to draw in enough blood to supply your body with nutrients. Fairly common, the organization estimates that 6.5 million Americans, over the age of 20, have heart failure.

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The preliminary findings were presented at the organization's Scientific Sessions 2017, which brings researchers and clinicians together to discuss the latest heart health science, according to a release.

Scientists looked at five different dietary plans to determine which cut heart failure risk the most: convenience (including fast food and pasta), plant-based, sweets, Southern (which included sweet beverages and fried foods) and alcohol/salads. People who consumed mostly produce decreased their risk of heart failure by 42 percent, according to a release, compared to those who ate less fruits and vegetables. The other plans weren't associated with better health. While some studies have shown that a good diet can help decrease plaque buildup in your arteries, this study shows that diet is important in preventing heart failure even for people who don't already have cardiac concerns.

"Eating a diet mostly of dark green leafy plants, fruits, beans, whole grains and fish, while limiting processed meats, saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and foods high in added sugars is a heart-healthy lifestyle and may specifically help prevent heart failure if you don't already have it," study co-author Dr. Kyla Lara, an internal medicine specialist, said in a statement.

Using data from a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the team looked at data for 15,569 people who did not have coronary artery disease or heart failure. Then, researchers analyzed health records from 2007 to 2013, looked at diets as reported through questionnaires, assigned participants to one of the dietary plans and identified records of 300 hospital visits for heart failure.

As previously reported, cardiologist at NYU Langone Health Eugenia, Gianos told Newsweek that research has shown vegan and Mediterranean diets are the best for reducing cancer and heart disease risk.

Past research has indicated that the more a diet restricts animal products, the more health benefits someone will receive. SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

While you don't have to give up all animal products, cardiologist Dr. Gary Fraser believes that those who are the most strict, receive the most benefit. In a story on the NIH site, he explained, "The trend is almost like a stepladder, with the lowest risks for the strict vegetarians, then moving up for the lacto vegetarians and then the pescatarians and then the non-vegetarians."

For those who really just don't want to be vegetarian, Gianos said even incorporate more meatless meals into your diet a few times a week can help. Your heart, and cows, will thank you.