Researchers strongly suggest avoiding the processed meats most of the time to reduce heart failure risk.

The link between processed foods and heart failure

Cooked Fish

Almost 6 million Americans have heart failure – this is a chronic condition where the heart does not pump blood as well. This results in physical symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath. Those everyday activities become harder to do. It is a progressive disease. Heart researchers from the Cohort of Swedish Men Study have found a dietary link with heart failure.

Swedish Men's Study on Heart Failure started with 37,000 men who did NOT have heart failure or heart disease. They were followed for 12 years. The results? A high intake of processed meats meant a greater chance for heart failure.

What are processed meats? Bacon. Sausage. Hot dogs. Luncheon or deli meats. Researchers aren’t sure why processed red meats increase heart failure risk. There are some suspicions, which may be linked to a few things found in processed meats:

  • High sodium content
  • Use of various preservatives, phosphates and/or additives     
  • The smoking, curing or salting process  

Researchers strongly suggest avoiding the processed meats most of the time to reduce heart failure risk. Enjoy fresh fish, poultry and red meats; grains; fruits and vegetables. An earlier analysis of this same group of Swedish men found a 23 percent increased risk for stroke in those with the highest processed meat intake.

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years, and currently works at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.