Doctors have recommended numerous interventions to combat heart disease. With heart disease killing more people in the United States than anything else, this advice is often widely adopted. Be it taking additional vitamins or switching to a Mediterranean diet, thousands of Americans are offered these suggestions each year.
Unfortunately, a recent review of such interventions suggests that many of these efforts may have been in vain. Of the 24 nutritional supplements and dietary changes reviewed, only a select few were proven to have any effect at all.
Omega-3‘s decreased salt intake and folic acid seemingly helped in some patients but not in others. None of the other interventions, including lowering fat intake, had any proven impact at all.
To be clear, in most cases, this analysis uncovered poor quality evidence. This is in part because the type of study required to analyze the effectiveness of any given nutrient is incredibly time-consuming and expensive. Additionally, it’s apparent that while an intervention may change the life of one patient, it may be ineffective in another. These considerations are important motivators in the progress towards individualized medicine.
Despite the demotivating results of this review, doctors still strongly urge some lifestyle changes for those concerned about their heart health. One of those changes is being sure to get a healthy diet of widely varied vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. This diverse diet can help avoid any nutritional deficiencies.
Also recommended is getting enough exercise. Fitness professionals emphasize that this doesn’t necessarily mean lifting weights for hours each day at the gym. Any activity helps including walking, cycling, and even recreational activities that don’t feel like exercise such as kayaking.
Hopefully, doctors can deliver specialized medical attention to each individual in the future. Someday doctors may not just recommend what has worked for someone before, but something that will work for you, specifically.
One of the ways we are rapidly moving towards the possibility of personalized cardiac care is through computer modeling. This type of data analysis can track and compare thousands of factors to help make precise decisions for patients. The above video, from John Hopkins Medicine, further discusses computer modeling in cardiology.