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Tips for a Healthy Heart

Dig in!Lower Your Heart Disease Risk by 35%

Skip the pharmacy and head for the produce aisle. According to new research published in Circulation, people who eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish lower their risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke by 35 percent.

Researchers tracked the eating habits of 31,546 people with a history of heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes over 5 years, and found those who ate the heart-healthy diet had the lowest chances of having a repeat stroke or heart attack. What’s more, the healthy eaters were 28 percent less likely to develop congestive heart failure.

OK, so it’s not entirely surprising. “You are what you eat. You’ve been told this since you were a little kid, but this proves that it’s really true,” cardiologist Eric Topol, M.D., director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and a Men’s Health expert advisor, tells MensHealth.com.

The reason for the boost is more of a mystery to researchers. Those behind the study can’t point to a single cause, but believe your gut microbiome—the bacteria living within your body—might be responsible.

Because healthful bacteria require specific food sources—more broccoli, less fried chicken—people who follow healthy diets have a “totally different profile of species” within their bodies, Dr. Topol says. Even better: These germs actually fight disease. According to researchers at Imperial College London, good bacteria may lower your blood pressure and risk of a heart attack by tricking your body into absorbing less salt.

We know that sticking to a vegetable-heavy diet takes work, but even small changes can make big differences. To introduce more produce into your diet, try this easy trick from Men’s Health nutrition advisor Alan Aragon, M.S.: Keep a bowl of fruit on your counter. Studies show you tend to eat whatever’s in front of you, so why not make it something healthy?