Vegetarians of Washington

Heart Disease – No. 1 cause of death

Dr Chan Hwang scans the carotid artery of a Vegfest attendee.

Heart disease is still the number one cause of death for both men and women. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. A plant-based diet can reduce your risk of a heart attack by 40%. If you wish your doctor knew about this, we want you to know that we do too! That’s why we wrote a letter to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. They recently published an Expert Consensus Decision Pathway on the role of non-statin therapies for lowering LDL Cholesterol, but they “forgot” to include the plant-based diet!  We told them about their omission, and we published it as an open letter, complete with references to all the latest research on the topic.

The most common cause of a heart attack is cholesterol-laden plaque that builds up and clogs the coronary arteries that feed the heart. This plaque either cuts off the heart’s blood supply, or it destabilizes causing a blockage which leads to a heart attack. A plant- based diet can stop the build up of plaque in the coronary arteries and even tack it back a bit.

Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack from clogged arteries, and for a significant portion of those victims their first heart attack will be fatal. The necessity of undergoing surgery to bypass clogged coronary arteries or to insert a stent, or even just the threat of being at risk for a heart attack, has given many a man and woman more than just a few sleepless nights.

Coronary artery bypass surgery enables many patients to live significantly longer, but it is very invasive and entails some risks and complications. Blood vessels from other parts of the body are used to create detours around the clogged arteries, but eventually these new pathways become blocked as well. Stents to help keep the artery open still involve surgery and can reclog.

But there’s a better solution to this problem – a vegetarian solution. Scientific studies have shown, time and again, the power of a healthy vegetarian diet to prevent and treat heart disease. Texas cardiologist Dean Ornish took patients destined for bypass surgery and placed them on a vegetarian diet instead of the standard meat-centered diet they were following. The results were striking. Their blockages started reducing in size, and the arteries opened up a bit. The heart’s ability to pump started to improve in only 24 days. There was a 91% reduction in chest pain. Within a year, his patients were literally hiking up mountains.

The beneficial effects to heart health seem to be long lasting. Recent research has also shown that the arteries become less inflamed and more flexible leading to much better blood flow to the heart muscle.

Other doctors tried testing a vegetarian diet on their patients and achieved the same results as Ornish. At this point, countless patients around the world have been “rescued” by the humble yet powerful vegetarian diet.

It turns out that plant foods work even better than medications in many cases. Studies have shown that a low-fat vegetarian diet, by itself, is at least as powerful at lowering the cholesterol levels of patients, as the American Heart Association Diet combined with a cholesterol-lowering drug.

The reason for this is simple. A vegetarian diet is much lower both in the saturated fat that promotes cholesterol production in our own livers, and in cholesterol itself. A vegan diet goes a step further and includes no cholesterol at all. As an extra bonus, the plant foods that are so plentiful in a vegetarian diet have also been shown to reduce blood pressure. Just as important, while you’re cleaning out your coronary arteries, you’ll also be cleaning out the arteries that lead to your brain and even your legs, thus preventing or reversing the most common kind of dementia and the painful legs that many people get when walking.

The beauty of the vegetarian solution is that it is available to everyone. You don’t need a prescription or even a doctor’s note to change your diet today. Come to Vegfest and find out how your arteries are doing, with our free artery ultrasound scans and blood pressure screenings, and try some of the heart-healthy food you’ll find there. We think you’ll find that getting healthy never tasted so good.

See professional level information on hypercholesterolemia, and the treatment of coronary artery disease.