Tag Archives: Heart disease

Heart Disease – No. 1 cause of death

Artery scanning

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.

Nuts are powerful

nuts-mixedNuts are powerful for our health. The evidence is in and there’s a lot of it. Nuts, such as cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, can reduce the risk of death from diabetes by 40 percent, cut heart disease by 30 percent, and reduce the risk of cancer by 15 percent. They also lower the risk of high blood pressure and gall stones, and can even lower cholesterol and triglycerides.  Even more good news – it only takes a handful or two of nuts two or three times a week to gain these benefits. Read more

Fish Oil and Wishful Thinking

Fish Oil pillsThe waste of money on the false notion that fish oil helps prevent heart disease is staggering. Americans spend $1.2 billion dollars on the stuff despite all the evidence that it does no good. An amazing 10% of Americans use fish oil supplements in the hopes of warding off heart disease, among other things.

We’ll give it to you straight though in doctor speak: “accrual of high-level evidence” indicates “that the supplements lack efficacy across a range of health outcomes for which their use is advocated.”  In plain English the stuff just doesn’t work as hyped. Commenting on the latest study published in Internal Medicine, former American Heart Association president, Robert Eckel, said “Almost all studies of fish oil supplements show no benefit.” Read more

Cardiologist: Put us out of business, by going vegan!

Cardiologist Ken WilliamsDr Kim Williams, the president of the American College of Cardiology, recently proclaimed that cardiologists can put themselves out of business if they just tell their patients to go vegan. He asks “Wouldn’t it be a laudable goal of the American College of Cardiology to put ourselves out of business?”

Following the old dictum “physician heal thyself” Dr Williams first went vegan to treat his own cholesterol problem. His cholesterol has been going up and up, and he found that going on a low-fat meat-centered diet was not enough. He had to go vegan and discover first hand the power of plant foods to treat the most common health problem in America, high cholesterol that leads to heart attacks. After only six weeks his cholesterol dropped down, way down, to where he wanted it.

He found that only when the dietary cholesterol was eliminated from his diet, did he reach a healthy cholesterol level in his blood. He was able to eliminate the cholesterol from his diet by avoiding dairy and animal products. Instead of eating chicken and fish, he started eating vegetable-based meat substitutes, like veggie burgers and sausages made from soy and other plant proteins, plus nuts. He also switched to almond milk from cow’s milk.

He said his enthusiasm for plant-based diets was also based on the medical literature. He cited observational studies of tens of thousands of people, that found that people following vegetarian diets lived longer than meat eaters and had lower rates of death from heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. And he pointed to research carried out by Dr. Dean Ornish, the pioneering cardiologist, who found that patients, who were put on a program that included a vegetarian diet, reversed the coronary plaque build up in their arteries and had fewer heart attacks.

Wanting to apply his research and own experience, he says that he “has made a habit of telling patients who are obese and plagued by metabolic problems like Type 2 diabetes to try eating… less meat. I recommend a plant-based diet because I know it’s going to lower their blood pressure, improve their insulin sensitivity and decrease their cholesterol and so I recommend it in all those conditions.”  And, he even likes to discuss some of his favorite vegan foods with his patients as well. He says that one of his favorites is “an Italian sausage that is hard to distinguish from real meat until you check your blood pressure. I encourage patients to go to the grocery store and sample different plant-based versions of many of the basic foods they eat. For me, some of the items, such as chicken and egg substitutes, were actually better-tasting.”

According to Dr. Dean Ornish, “We tend to think of advances in medicine as a new drug, laser, or surgical device, something high-tech and expensive. Yet, the simple choices we make in what we eat and how we live have a powerful influence on our health and well-being.” The most influential trend in medicine today, growing exponentially, is the emerging field of what is known as “lifestyle medicine” – lifestyle as treatment, not just prevention.

Besides Williams and Ornish, other leading cardiologists have been putting patients on a vegan diet, advocating what amounts to vegetarian nutritional medicine as well. For instance, the Editor in Chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, Dr. William C. Roberts, also proclaimed the vegan diet as best for heart health.

But, don’t feel too bad about putting your doctor out of business. There will still be a few diseases for him to handle. It’s just that now he’s going to have plenty of time in his schedule for recreation! For more information on how a plant-based diet leads the way to a healthy heart see our postings on Spring Clean Your Heart, and Interview with a Cardiologist.

Please note that any changes to diet should only be made in consultation with a medical doctor.

Spring Clean your Heart

Three heartsSunday is Valentine’s Day, and so, naturally, many people will be concerned with affairs of the heart. But did you know that February is also Heart Health month? And while it’s not quite spring yet, many people will be starting their spring cleaning early by cleaning out the clogged arteries that lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes and dementia, just to name a few.

Heart disease is a major problem. 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. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women. Even the threat of being at risk for a heart attack, or having to undergo surgery to bypass clogged coronary arteries, has given many a man and woman more than just a few sleepless nights. Read more

FDA Bans Trans Fats – Good News, or is it?

Trans Fat labelThe FDA has just taken a small step for our health by proposing to ban added trans fats in the American food supply, citing its role in increasing cholesterol levels, which leads to the clogged arteries that cause heart disease and most strokes. Trans fats, also termed partially hydrogenated fats and oils, have been used to extend the shelf life of various food products, among other uses.

In fact consumption was already way down. While average consumption of added trans fats was almost 5 grams a day in 2003, it had already dropped down to less than 1 gram in 2012. Estimates are that as many as 20,000 lives may be saved by this move – a good thing.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that many manufacturers are replacing trans fats with artery-clogging, saturated animal fats which are not much better. Saturated animal fats are powerful when it comes to raising cholesterol levels. They also lead to decreasing insulin sensitivity which fuels Type II diabetes. When we consider that heart disease is still the leading cause of death, that stroke is 3rd leading cause, and that diabetes rates are soaring, this latest move by the FDA is really only a baby step in the right direction.

Also, the FDA ban does nothing to address the trans fats naturally occurring in both meat and dairy. Recent studies show these trans fats to be even worse than the artificial trans fats currently added to so many different products. What’s really needed to make a big difference in the health of our nation is a ban or limit on animal fats, which are all high in saturated fat. 

Percentage of Saturated Fat in Various Foods

Animal Fats

Saturated Fat as % of Total Fat

  Plant Oils Saturated Fat as % of Total Fat
Butter

68%

  Olive oil

13%

Beef fat (tallow)

50%

  Corn oil

13%

Pork fat (lard)

33%

  Sunflower oil

10%

Chicken fat

30%

  Safflower oil

9%

 

 

  Canola oil

7%

Animal fats, both saturated and unsaturated, are not only the prime culprits behind heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but they contain highly concentrated levels of pesticides and industrial toxins such as PCB’s and dioxin, which promote several different kinds of cancer. All these diseases kill way more people than just the 20,000 people saved by the latest ban.

It’s time for the FDA to finally step up to the plate and actually ban or limit animal fats, or at least put a warning label on the package. One of the reasons they hesitate to do so, presumably, is because so many people eat them. Yet when cigarette smoking levels were very high, the Surgeon General had the courage to state that smoking causes cancer and to put warning labels on the package. Indeed, the front cover of the current issue of Good Medicine magazine, published by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC, states that “Meat is the New Tobacco”.

Making Health Insurance Reform Work

First Congress voted, and now the Supreme Court has spoken, so, as of this writing, a massive overhaul of the health system seems likely. The questions on many people’s minds at this point are: How are we going to pay for it all? and will there be enough medical staff and facilities to go around? The entire debate about health care is driven by the fact that Americans need so much care. Collectively we are sicker than we have ever been. When you think about it, what we really need the most to make things work is a healthier country. This is where helping the country to move towards a vegetarian diet can make a big difference, perhaps the crucial difference between success and failure.

The three leading causes of death in America are heart disease, cancer and stroke – mostly diet-related diseases which can be largely prevented, and often even reversed, by following a healthy vegetarian diet. Adding to the stress on the healthcare system are leading diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure – two of the most common diseases in America– and both of these can also be largely prevented and reversed through a healthy vegetarian diet. Diabetes and pre-diabetes are thought to affect as many as 80 million Americans, and high blood pressure another 75 million people.

As patients line up at pharmacy counters, doctors offices, and hospital registration desks, the cash registers ring up the costs of these diseases—well into the hundreds of billions every year. The money savings potential in moving the country towards a vegetarian diet is profound. For instance, a Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company showed that for every $1 spent in helping heart patients to switch over to a vegetarian diet, $5.55 was saved in treatment. One study found that over 90% of diabetics were able to discontinue or reduce their medication in only six months after adopting a healthy vegetarian diet.  Plant-food rich vegetarian diets have been shown to drastically reduce the incidence of diseases such as stroke and hypertension, and even several forms of cancer such as colon and prostate cancer.  But even less dramatic but still costly medical expenses would be saved. For instance, every year the meat-centered low-fiber standard diet, and the all-too-common constipation it causes, results in Americans to spend nearly 800 million dollars on laxatives every year. Yet the fiber-rich plant-powered diet would largely save us both the discomfort and the expense.

With all this in mind, you’d think that the government would do everything it could to financially support farmers who grow healthier food, but such is not the case. Sadly, every administration, both Democrat and Republican in recent decades, has been caught up in a system that not only tolerates ill health, but encourages it. For instance, only 3% of farm subsidies go towards healthy plant foods while the other 97% goes to animal products and highly refined and junk food. With this kind of policy, the government promotes an environment that encourages the very diseases for which it now needs to insure against. How much simpler it would be to promote a healthier diet, and save us all the money of so much “disease care,” and in so doing, provide the American people with what we really need, true health care.

While still controversial for some, most Americans feel we need some kind of insurance reform. But even more, we need better health. And that should be front and center in any emerging plan. While financial fixes have their place, and while new technologies can make a significant contribution, the country has largely blinded itself to the simple yet powerful potential of the vegetarian diet. Far from a bitter pill to swallow, a delicious vegetarian diet may just be the miracle drug of the 21st century.

« Older Entries