BOSTON — People who have heart problems tend to live longer if they eat more fiber, according to a study published April 29 in the BMJ. Researchers found greater intake of dietary fiber, especially cereal fiber, after myocardial infarction was associated inversely with all cause and cardiovascular mortality.

The researchers were from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Brookline, Mass. Grants from the National Institute of Health supported the study.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a heart attack also is called a myocardial infarction.

The study involved 2,258 women in the Nurses’ Health Study through 32 years of follow-up and 1,840 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study through 22 years of follow-up.

“When we modeled fiber as a continuous variable, the pooled hazard ratio was 0.85 (95% confidence interval 0.74 to 0.97) for total mortality for a 10 g/day incremental intake,” the researchers said.

The study assessed diet and lifestyle characteristics among women and men who were free of cardiovascular disease, stroke or cancer at enrollment, survived a first myocardial infarction during the follow-up through 2008, and were free of stroke at the time of the initial onset of myocardial infarction. A validated food frequency questionnaire assessed dietary habits.

The study jointly examined cereal fiber, fruit fiber and vegetable fiber. Only intake of cereal fiber strongly was associated inversely with lower all cause and cardiovascular mortality.

“Possible mechanisms for the beneficial effects of a high fiber diet on coronary heart disease risk and mortality include reductions in systemic inflammation, lower serum low-density lipoprotein (L.D.L.) cholesterol level, reduced lipid peroxidation, improved insulin sensitivity, overall better glycemic control and a beneficial gut microbiota environment,” the researchers said.