Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to diseases of the heart or blood vessels. A change in lifestyle that includes a reduced intake of fat, together with an increased intake of fiber from fruit, vegetables and grains can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, revealed a study.
The study has found a general decrease in cholesterol levels, which was more pronounced in older people, women without university education and in people with high risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the decrease was more pronounced in the elderly than in younger participants, but no difference was found between men and women.
‘A change in lifestyle that includes a reduced intake of fat, together with an increased intake of fiber from fruit, vegetables and grains can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.’
Also, the people with high risk of cardiovascular disease, who had been treated for high blood pressure, diabetes and previous heart attack or stroke, were the group with the largest decrease.
The results show that an important part of the decrease in people falling ill and people dying in heart attacks can be explained by lower cholesterol in the population, the researchers noted.
"The most important reason for the decreased cholesterol in the population of Norrbotten and Västerbotten counties in northern Sweden is most likely a change in lifestyle, such as a reduced intake of fat, together with an increased intake of fiber from fruit, vegetables and grains," said Mats Eliasson, professor at the Umea University in Sweden.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal
, showed that the average level of blood cholesterol in the population has decreased from 6.2 to 5.5 mmol/L between 1994 and 2014.
At the beginning of the study conducted on the population of northern Sweden in 1994, people with high risk of heart attacks had at least as high cholesterol as healthy individuals.
In 2014, the levels of these high-risk individuals were considerably lower than in the population on the whole. High cholesterol levels in obese people as well as in women without university education were noted at the beginning of the study, but had completely disappeared 20 years later.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs, often called statins were used by 14% of the population in 2014, which is estimated to contribute to a third of the decrease in cholesterol levels. The constantly decreasing cholesterol levels are pointing towards a continuous reduction in cardiovascular disease.
Even if the risk of cardiovascular disease has been heavily reduced in the last 10-20 years, it is still the most common cause of death in Sweden, especially when it comes to heart attacks, the researchers concluded.