Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump blood effectively to the lungs or the rest of the body, usually because the person has narrowed or hardened coronary arteries (the vessels that supply blood to heart muscle), has previously suffered a heart attack, or has high blood pressure.
The cereal study was presented in Orlando, Fla., at the American Heart Association's 47th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.
Data came from the Physicians' Health Study, which included more than 21,400 male doctors followed for 18 years.
"The Physicians' Health Study shows that even in a population with overall healthy behavior, it is possible to see less heart failure in those who eat a whole-grain cereal breakfast," Luc Djousse, MD, MPH, DSc, says in an American Heart Association news release.
Djousse, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, also works at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He was among the researchers who worked on the cereal study.
They also noted their weekly servings of breakfast cereal at the beginning of the study. Whole-grain cereals were defined as those containing at least 25% whole grain or bran by weight.
The doctors were followed for about 18 years, on average. Every year, they updated their medical history.
During the follow-up period, 898 of the doctors were diagnosed with heart failure.
Those who reported eating at least seven weekly servings of whole-grain breakfast cereals were 21% less likely to develop heart failure during the study, compared with those who ate no whole-grain breakfast cereals.
Those findings take a host of other risk factors into consideration, including blood pressure, physical activity, smoking, BMI (body mass index, which relates height to weight), alcohol consumption, and diabetes.
However, the findings don't mean that eating whole-grain breakfast cereal allows you to skimp on other heart-healthy habits, such as being physically active and making sure the rest of your diet is nutritious.
Talk to your doctor to gauge and improve your heart's health.