Can the Mediterranean diet reduce heart attacks?

Can the Mediterranean diet reduce heart attacks?

Heart attacks¹ are a leading cause of death worldwide, but did you know that a simple change in your diet can significantly reduce your risk? The Mediterranean diet², rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, has been scientifically proven to lower the chances of suffering from a heart attack. In this blog post, we will explore the key components of the Mediterranean diet and how they contribute to a healthier heart.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the traditional eating habits of people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. It emphasizes consuming plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, while limiting the intake of red meat and processed foods. Olive oil, nuts, and seeds are the primary sources of fat in this diet, providing essential nutrients and healthy fats.

How does the Mediterranean diet reduce heart attacks?

Multiple studies have shown that following the Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine³ found that individuals who adhered closely to the Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from cardiovascular disease⁴ compared to those who followed a typical Western diet.

Scientific evidence supporting the Mediterranean diet

Multiple studies have investigated the potential benefits of the Mediterranean diet on heart health. One landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed more than 7,000 participants at high risk for heart disease. The study found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil had a 30% lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from cardiovascular causes compared to the control group.

Another study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology⁵ analyzed data from over 1.5 million adults. The researchers found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 21% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks.

Why does the Mediterranean diet reduce heart attack risk?

There are several reasons why the Mediterranean diet may help reduce the risk of heart attacks. Firstly, it is rich in heart-healthy nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fibre. These nutrients have been shown to have protective effects on the cardiovascular system.

Secondly, the Mediterranean diet promotes a healthy balance of fats. It replaces unhealthy saturated and trans fats with healthier monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and nuts. This can help lower LDL cholesterol levels, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Lastly, the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower incidence of other risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, high blood pressure⁶, and diabetes. By addressing these risk factors, the diet contributes to overall heart health.

The Mediterranean diet's heart-protective effects can be attributed to several factors:

1. Rich in heart-healthy fats

Olive oil, a staple in the Mediterranean diet, is rich in monounsaturated fats, which can help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Additionally, the diet includes other sources of healthy fats, such as nuts and fatty fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

2. Abundance of antioxidants

Fruits and vegetables, key components of the Mediterranean diet, are packed with antioxidants that help protect the heart by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. These powerful compounds can neutralize harmful free radicals and promote cardiovascular health.

3. High in fibre

Whole grains, legumes, and vegetables provide a significant amount of dietary fibre in the Mediterranean diet. Fibre plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, regulating blood sugar levels, and promoting a healthy gut microbiome, all of which contribute to a reduced risk of heart attacks.

4. Reduced intake of processed foods

The Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of whole, unprocessed foods while limiting the intake of processed and refined foods. Processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium, which can increase the risk of heart disease. By avoiding these foods, individuals following the Mediterranean diet can protect their heart health.


The Mediterranean diet offers a delicious and effective way to reduce the risk of heart attacks. By embracing this eating pattern and incorporating its key components into your daily meals, you can enjoy the benefits of a healthier heart. Remember, small changes in your diet can lead to significant improvements in your overall well-being. Consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to learn more about how the Mediterranean diet can fit into your lifestyle and help you achieve optimal heart health.

(image via Cleveland Clinic)



1. What is a heart attack? | Cardiac X

2. What’s the deal with the Mediterranean diet? | Diabetes Australia

3. NEJM Homepage

4. What is the difference between a Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest and a Stroke? | Cardiac X

5. JACC Homepage

6. The Facts about Hypertension | Cardiac X

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