(HealthDay News) — Nearly half of all deaths from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes in the United States are associated with diets that lack certain foods and nutrients, such as vegetables, and exceed optimal levels of others, like salt, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers used data from multiple national sources to examine deaths from cardiometabolic diseases — heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes — in 2012, and the role that diet may have played.

Too much salt in people’s diets was the leading factor, accounting for 9.5% of cardiometabolic deaths, according to the researchers. Other key factors in cardiometabolic death included low intake of nuts and seeds, seafood omega-3 fats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and high intake of processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages. Each of these factors accounted for between 6% and 9% of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Low consumption of polyunsaturated fats accounted for 2.3% of cardiometabolic deaths. High consumption of unprocessed red meats was responsible for 0.4% of these deaths.

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The study also found that poor diet was associated with a larger proportion of deaths at younger versus older ages, among people with lower versus higher levels of education, and among minorities versus whites.

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  1. Micha R, Peñalvo JL, Cudhea F, et al. Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States. JAMA. 7 March 2017. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.0947