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Eat More Fiber to Live Longer After Heart Attack

May 06, 2014

Want to increase your odds of living longer after a heart attack? Eat your oatmeal. A new study finds a link between diets rich in whole grains and a lower risk of death from heart disease.

Fiber’s role in heart disease prevention is well known. What’s new is the role it plays following heart attacks. The study followed men and women for more than a decade following heart attacks, and found the more fiber from cereal grains they ate, the longer they survived.

Cereal grains include oats, barley, corn, whole wheat, rye, brown rice, and quinoa. (You can learn more about whole grains at

Unfortunately, most people don’t eat the three, one-ounce daily servings of whole grains recommended by the USDA.

If you haven’t been eating enough fiber, now is the time to start, whether you’ve had a heart attack or not, says Mary Compton, a clinical dietitian with Duke Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation at Croasdaile. In addition to fighting heart disease, fiber lowers blood sugar, cuts cholesterol and prevents certain types of cancer.

Your first step is to look for the word “whole” on food labels. “Wheat bread is not whole wheat bread,” Compton says. “Wheat bread is really white bread.”

Simple steps, like switching from white pasta to whole-wheat pasta, and from white rice to brown rice, can add up fast. Oatmeal for breakfast, popcorn for snack, and corn on the cob at dinner will easily meet your daily whole grain goal.

While the researchers focused on cereal grains, Compton says beans, fruit and vegetables are also good sources of fiber, and carry many benefits. “Beans are rich sources of protein, and fruits and vegetables provide additional phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are important for your health.”