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Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels, which are the leading cause of death globally. CVDs account for an estimated 17.9 million deaths each year, according to the World Health organisation (WHO). Generally, cardiovascular disease is caused due to atherosclerosis, which occurs when plaque (fats, cholesterol and other substances) builds up inside arteries. Over time, the plaque can lead to hardening and narrowing of your arteries, or it can burst, triggering a blood clot to form. Both these conditions can block blood flow to the heart. High blood cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia) is one of the risk factors cardiovascular diseases as it leads to narrowing down of blood vessels. One important way to lower your cholesterol is through diet. If you're at risk for cardiovascular disease, eat more pecans, suggests a new study.
The study by researchers from the University of Georgia has shown that the tree nut can dramatically improve a person's cholesterol levels, including total cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol. The researchers reported an average drop of 5% in total cholesterol and between 6% and 9% in LDL among participants who consumed 68 grams or about 470 calories of pecans a day as part of their regular diet or substituted pecans for a similar amount of calories from their habitual diet during an eight-week intervention.
In fact, some people who were having high cholesterol at the start of the study were no longer in that category after the intervention, the authors said.
The University of Georgia researchers pointed to the known bioactive properties of pecans for possible mechanisms driving the improvements in cholesterol levels. Pecans are rich in healthy fatty acids and fiber, both of which have been associated with lower cholesterol.
Adding pecans to the diet produced a greater and more consistent reduction in total cholesterol and LDL compared to many other lifestyle interventions, noted the researcher, suggesting that it may be a more sustainable approach for long-term health.
Even a 1% reduction in LDL is associated with a small reduction of coronary artery disease risk, so the study results are definitely clinically meaningful, they added.
The other risk factors that might lead to cardiovascular diseases include:
Limiting or quitting tobacco use, reduction of salt intake, adding more fruit and vegetables to the diet, regular physical activity and avoiding harmful use of alcohol have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
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