Eating Red Meat and Processed Meat Raises the Risk for Heart Disease

February is American Heart Month and today February 7 is National Wear Red Day to raise awareness about the need to eradicate heart disease and stroke. Research has shown that living a healthy lifestyle can lead to having a healthy heart. A new study published February 3, 2020 in JAMA Internal Medicine has found that eating red meat, processed meat and poultry can raise the risk for developing heart disease. The research was carried out by researchers at Northwestern University and Cornell University and led by Dr. Victor Zhong.

Method of the Cohort Study

The participants were 29,682 American adults whose dietary consumption of red meat, processed meat, poultry and fish were analyzed from data taken from 1985 to 2002. The participants were followed up until August 31, 2016.


Two Servings of Red Meat, Processed Meat or Poultry a Week Linked to a 3-7% Higher Risk of Heart Disease

Eating just two servings a week of red meat, processed meat or poultry, but not fish was linked to a 3-7% higher risk of heart disease.

Two Servings a Week of Red or Processed Meat Associated with a 3% Higher Risk of Death

Eating two servings a week of red or processed meat, but not poultry or fish was associated with a 3% higher risk of death from all causes.

Two Servings a Week of Poultry Showed a 4% Higher Risk for Heart Disease

Eating two servings a week of poultry showed a 4% higher risk for heart disease. While the study found an association between eating poultry and heart disease, there is not yet enough evidence to make a definite recommendation about avoiding eating poultry. However, the researchers definitely do not recommend eating fried chicken. Deep fried chicken contributes to trans fatty acids which are linked to chronic diseases.


Eating fish was not associated with an increased risk of heart disease or death. However, previous research has linked fried fish to chronic diseases.

Eating Red Meat also Linked to Increased Risk for Cancer

According to Norrina Allen, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, eating red meat is also associated with an increased risk for cancer.

Best to Eat Fish, Seafood and Protein from Plants

According to Linda Van Horn, the coauthor of the study, it is best to eat fish, seafood or protein that comes from plants.


The researchers conclude that the results of this study have important implications for the health of people and definitely there should be further research.

Heart Disease in the United States

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and following a healthy lifestyle may prevent heart disease. To learn more about heart attacks see our blog post from July 12, 2019.

Lifestyle Changes Recommended to Prevent Heart Disease

Some simple lifestyle changes that may help to prevent heart disease:

  • Quit Smoking
  • Cut back or stop drinking alcoholic drinks
  • Get plenty of physical exercise
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, whole grains and more fish and less red and processed meat.
  • Take prescribed medical drugs
  • Learn how to manage stress

The Need for Short or Long-term Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care

Heart disease can lead to a need for short or long-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care.

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York provides short and long-term rehabilitation therapy tailored to a patient’s individual needs. Van Duyn also has very rich recreational activities and offers fine dining with healthy nutritious meals under the guidance of a dietitian.


It pays to eat more fish and less red meat and processed meat. However, even fish is not healthy if it is fried.

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