For Heart-Healthy Eating in the New Year, Try Mediterranean

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ColumbiaDoctors of the Hudson Valley recommend Mediterranean-style diet for heart health.

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What’s your New Year’s resolution? If you’re like many Americans, losing weight is at the top of your list. According to, trying to shed extra pounds is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions in the United States, as people focus on diet and exercise after the holidays are over. However, Dr. Michael J. Muschel, M.D., F.A.C.C., a board certified cardiologist at ColumbiaDoctors of the Hudson Valley, advises a more meaningful goal would be working toward a better diet. Dr. Muschel recommends a Mediterranean-style diet, which may help put patients on track towards an overall healthier lifestyle and even lower the risk of heart disease.

“In early 2013, the findings of a major study were reported on The New England Journal of Medicine’s website, adding another bit of support to the link between a Mediterranean-style diet and heart disease prevention,” Dr. Muschel recalls. “Since the 1950s, we have known that people living in countries and regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea – Southern Italy, Greece, Spain – have less heart disease than people living in other westernized countries.

“Epidemiologists and scientists have long suspected that the ‘Mediterranean diet’ common to these populations, one that is high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil and includes red wine, while restricting red meats and dairy products, is responsible for this health benefit,” continued Dr. Muschel.

“So, what makes this most recent study so exciting?” he asked. “This was the gold standard of trials, with important results that could be applied to the general public, rather than just those with heart disease or a history of heart attacks.”

30 Percent Lower Occurrence of Heart Attacks
According to Dr. Muschel, the 7,500 individuals enrolled in this new study, conducted in Spain, had heart disease risk factors, e.g., smoking, high blood pressure, family history of heart disease, and/or high blood cholesterol but were healthy otherwise. About one-third were instructed and regularly coached in the details of a traditional heart-healthy, low-fat diet. Another third were instructed in the specifics of a Mediterranean diet and were closely monitored. This group also received large quantities of olive oil for daily use. The remaining one-third also regularly received guidance and provided feedback on Mediterranean eating, but was supplied with large quantities of nuts. After about five years, the number of new heart attacks, strokes and cardiac deaths was 30 percent lower in each of the Mediterranean diet groups as compared with the low- fat group.

Start Eating Mediterranean Now
“Some of my patients despairingly tell me that it is too late for them since their blood vessels and heart are too far gone. That’s not true. The average age of subjects in this most recent study was over 60 years, and even participants with year of heart-unhealthy eating lowered their risk after switching to a Mediterranean diet,” said Dr. Muschel.

“I also hear from patients that diet won’t make a difference because they already are taking Lipitor, Crestor or another cholesterol-lowering drug. They’re wrong. Many of the patients in the Spanish study were in fact taking these very medications and still benefited,” he continued.

Dr. Muschel’s advice for the New Year…start today by making one or two small changes to bring more Mediterranean foods into your diet. Your heart, and your taste buds, will thank you!

About ColumbiaDoctors of the Hudson Valley: Founded in 1979 as Ramapo Cardiologists (and later renamed Hudson Heart Associates), ColumbiaDoctors of the Hudson Valley (CDHV) provides comprehensive cardiovascular and internal medicine services, with a focus on prevention, diagnostic testing, and treatment. Its physicians and nurses, who have special expertise in women’s heart health and older adults, are committed to providing exceptional and compassionate care at every step of a patient’s treatment. CDHV physicians are faculty members of the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and affiliated with New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, one of the nation’s top academic medical centers.

ColumbiaDoctors of the Hudson Valley is located at 222 Route 59, Suite 302, Suffern, NY, Phone: 845.368.0100,with offices also at 745 State Route 17M, Suite 203, Monroe, NY, Phone: 845.774.1403. Visit for more information.

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Linda Heaney
Co-Communications, Inc.
+1 (914) 666-0066
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Nicole Grosjean
Co-Communications, Inc.
(914) 666-0066
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