heart disease risk

  1. Red meat for healthy hearts

    Heart health may be as simple as "take two steaks--and call me in the morning."

    In a big victory for the low-carb crowd, Indian researchers have found that vegetarians have a dramatically higher risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

    Since some 40 percent of the country is vegetarian--and less then a third eat meat regularly--they know a little something about the meat-free lifestyle over there. And while greens and beans are loaded with some fantastic nutrients, they're missing a few of the most critical ones –-like heart-friendly vitamin B12.

    And it shows.

    The researchers say they examined 300 vegetarians at a Mumbai hospital, and found nearly all of them to be deficient in B12. That, in turn, caused high levels of the inflammation marker homocysteine, which has been linked to coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and atherosclerosis.

    Put it all together, and you've got patients at serious risk of clots, heart attacks and strokes. It's not a theoretical risk, either--the researchers say nearly 70 percent of the patients were already suffering from cardiac disease, or were at high risk of a heart attack in the immediate future.

    What's more, the researchers said at the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders in Los Angeles that their vegetarian patients had such low levels of B12 that they needed injections, not supplements.

    The study didn't look at other B vitamins, but there are actually three of them that can help keep homocysteine levels in check: B12, B6 and folate. And while vegetarians can get folate from beans, peas and spinach, B6 is like B12 –-its best natural sources are meat.

    And that's just one of the reasons why low-carb diets are so heart healthy.

    Low-carb diets rich in natural meats can also help you lose weight, bring your blood pressure down to normal levels and even keep your cholesterol levels in check--all of which adds up to a lower risk of heart problems.

    Vegetarians miss out on all that--but they can gain some ground by enjoying extra dairy products like milk, eggs and cheese and working a good supplement into their regimen.

    Vegans have a much tougher road--most of them have to rely on supplements and protein powders to stay healthy.

    And since the B vitamins have also been linked to mood, memory and energy in addition to cardiovascular health, make sure you're getting enough of them--no matter what kind of lifestyle you live.

  2. Coffee, tea and heart health

    Love your morning cup? It's loving you right back, because a new study finds that people who drink the most coffee and tea enjoy some terrific heart benefits.

    In fact, coffee and tea drinkers are much less likely to suffer from heart disease than those who don't drink either.

    The 13-year study of more than 37,000 people in the Netherlands was the largest of its kind, and it found that tea offered the biggest heart boost: Those who drank between three and six cups per day enjoyed a 45 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than those who drank less than one cup a day.

    Those who drank more than six cups a day had a 36 percent lower risk of heart disease.

    And if you prefer java, the study in the Journal of the American Heart Association has some good news for you, too: Drinking between two and four cups of coffee a day can lower your risk of heart disease by up to 20 percent.

    Forget love at first sight--this one is love at fourth cup.

    Even better, drinking coffee and tea was all gain and no pain. The researchers say those who drank these delicious beverages had no increased risk of other diseases or premature death--just terrific heart benefits.

    There's a lot of good news in this study--but one thing that's missing from it is the element of surprise, because coffee and tea have been linked to heart health before. Coffee and tea also share something else, and not just a big, warm mug: They can lower your risk of diabetes.

    Coffee may also lower your risk of prostate cancer, Parkinson's disease, liver disorders, skin cancer and gallstones. One study even found that coffee drinkers have fewer cavities.

    But if you'd rather sip tea than coffee, don't worry-- you'll get your share of benefits, too. Polyphenol-rich green tea has been linked to everything from cardiovascular health and cancer prevention to longer lives.

    Now that's something worth filling your mug for.

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