Fiber Can Help After a Heart Attack

February 9, 2015
Aging parents need fiber in their diets. (Image courtesy digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net)

Aging parents need fiber in their diets. (Image courtesy digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net)

As many aging parents, spouses and others already know, eating a proper amount of fiber can have positive health effects: it can help with digestive issues, lower bad cholesterol, and improve blood sugar levels, and has been linked to preventing cardiovascular issues. Now, a new study in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) suggests that eating fiber can also play a role in decreasing the risk of death after a heart attack.

The study

For this study, scientists looked at thousands of people who had previously enrolled in several other studies that had gathered significant data.  They selected more than 4,000 who, when they initially enrolled in these studies, had not had a heart attack but who did later suffer heart attacks. Eventually, 558 of these individuals expired due to cardiovascular issues.

The researchers looked at the dietary history of both those that did expire and those who continued to live. When they looked at the data, they found that those who consumed a greater quantity of cereal-based fiber were 35% less likely to die of cardiovascular issues than were those who consumed lesser quantities.

Although there are limitations to this study (as with any study), the researchers did take steps to account for other factors, such as age, smoking, etc.

This study specifically found benefits from fiber from cereal products. This is consistent with other studies that have indicated that, while all fiber can have benefits, cereal fiber may be especially healthful.

Sources of cereal fiber

As might be expected, many breakfast cereals contain fiber – but not all breakfast cereals are healthy sources of fiber. Some are packed with sugar, while others contain only small amounts of fiber. It’s important to check the labels to determine how much fiber per serving that cereals contain. It’s also a good idea to check with a doctor to determine how much fiber you should strive to take in, as well as to see what other factors you should take into consideration when making changes to your diet.

In addition to breakfast cereals, excellent sources of cereal fiber include whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley and other whole grain foods. Aging parents, spouses and others should make sure that their diets include appropriate amounts of these foods.

While more studies are needed to confirm the results of this study, there’s no doubt that fiber plays an important role in general health. Aging parents and others would do well to keep an eye on their fiber intake.

Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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