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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Red Meat, Heart Health, and Cancer

raw red meat
It is estimated that the average American consumes well over 200 pounds of red meat each year. And while our meat consumption is starting to drop off a little bit, it is rising throughout the rest of the world. In recent years, several large scale studies have been undertaken to help us understand the consequences of our national passion for all things meaty.

One of the largest studies of diet and heart health comes from the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with the AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons). Half a million men and women ages 50 to 71 were studied for ten years. The results were published in The Archives of Internal Medicine in 2009. Overall, those who consumed the most red meat (about a quarter pound of meat each day) were more than 20 percent more likely to die of cancer, and over 25 percent more likely to die of heart disease, when compared to those who rarely or never ate meat.

A study from Sweden, led by Dr. Sussana Larsson, examined the effect of red meat on stroke risk, and reported scarily similar outcomes.  In this study of nearly 35,000 women who were followed for ten years, those who ate more than three and a half ounces of red meat daily had a 40 percent higher risk for stroke than those who ate little or no red meat. Other studies have reported a greater risk for dementia in meat eaters compared with vegetarians or those who eat mainly fish.

My best advice to you is to follow a typical Mediterranean diet, with plenty of fish, olive oil, nuts, fruits, and veggies. Throw in some elements of a traditional Japanese diet, including tofu and green tea, and you’ll have a diet that is as heart healthy as it is easy, cost-conscious, and delicious.

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Tags: Diet and Heart Health

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.