Food & Drink Magazine

No More Heart Disease

By Chuck Underwood @brandnewvegan

Heart Disease

Heart Disease in the #1 killer in America, and has been so for years.  Every year about 600,000 men and women die from it.  That’s roughly 1 out of every 4 people.  We hear these facts on the TV, or on the Internet – but most of us don’t really think about it much – until it hits close to home.   It hit home for me this year as TWO of my friends have had heart attacks in just the last couple of months.

One of my friends ended up having a double bypass operation.  An artery from his leg and another from his arm was used to bypass the coronary arteries that had become clogged.  The other friend had a couple of stents inserted to keep their arteries opened up.  These are usually the 2 different treatment options, along with a regiment of pharmaceuticals – many of which they will probably take for life.

My one friend who had the stent is only 41 yrs old, and her only symptom was that she fainted at work.  What’s surprising about my friend is that her blood pressure was only slightly elevated (no different from many of us) and all her lipid panel results were normal.  A blood test at the hospital is the only evidence that she had just had a heart attack.  And it wasn’t until they performed an angiogram that they finally confirmed that she had several blocked arteries.

In other words, it could happen to anyone.

What Is Normal Cholesterol?

My friend’s case may sound very atypical, and I’m sure many people will see it as such. After all, her blood pressure was only a little bit high, and her cholesterol numbers were normal.

But the thing to remember is this:  Blood pressure is a symptom of a disease, not a disease itself.  So if you have high blood pressure, it means something is wrong.  Turn on a garden hose and you will get a steady stream of water with a steady pressure.  Now restrict the opening of that hose, narrow the diameter, or put your finger over the end of it and what happens?  The pressure goes up and that stream will spray a lot farther.

Same thing in your arteries, they are getting narrowed by the build-up of cholesterol and plaque.  The higher the LDL cholesterol, the more plaques tend to form, and the more inflamed the arterial skin becomes. Plaque build-up is also known as atherosclerosis.

Most heart attacks occur because one of these plaques ruptures. Like boils, many plaques are soft and fragile, full of cholesterol-rich “pus.” When inflamed, they can burst and spew their contents into the bloodstream, triggering chemical reactions that often culminate with a large blood clot, which can choke off blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack

Won’t all that cholesterol in your arteries show up in a blood test?

Yes it will.  But what is normal?  According to the American Heart Association, a total cholesterol count of 200mg/dL is normal.  But….

In the documentary Forks Over Knives, Dr Joseph Crowe MD, surgical oncologist and director of the breast center at the Cleveland Clinic, had a heart attack with a total cholesterol count of just 156mg/dL.  He credits Dr. Esselstyn with saving his life.  

According to Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, heart disease rarely occurs in people with total cholesterol levels below 150mg/dL.   A large Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial found that the men with the lowest death rates had a total cholesterol value of just 122mg/dL.

“I walked out of the OR and had a crushing chest pain, severe headache. It was pretty dramatic,” he says. “My cholesterol was low, I was relatively active, I didn’t know what I could do to change things,” Dr. Crowe says.

Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease

So now the question becomes, how can WE prevent this from happening to us.  Can it be prevented?  And once it’s happened is there a way to actually reverse it?  The answer is YES.  But the answer is NOT more stents, or more bypass surgeries, or more drugs.

The answer is actually very simple.  It’s changing the way you eat.  And it’s eating in such a way to get that total cholesterol count below 150mg/dL.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr.  is an American surgeon and former Olympic champion. He is a “leading proponent” in the field of “plant-based diets” and starred in the 2011 American documentary, Forks Over Knives. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (2007), is what  influenced former U.S. President Bill Clinton to turn to a vegan diet after his bypass surgery.  

I believe that coronary artery disease is preventable, and that even after it is underway, its progress can be stopped, its insidious effects reversed.  I believe, and my work over the past twenty years has demonstrated, that all this can be accomplished without expensive mechanical intervention and with minimal use of drugs.  The key lies in nutrition — specifically, in abandoning the toxic American diet and maintaining cholesterol levels well below those historically recommended by health policy experts.  Dr. Caldwell Essesltyn

And just what kind of diet does Dr Esselstyn recommend?   Why a 100% Plant Based, Whole Foods, Vegan Diet of course.

The Esselstyn Rules:

  • No meat, no poultry, no fish–not even salmon
  • No dairy of any kind–not even skim milk or non-fat yogurt.
  • No eggs–not even egg whites or Egg Beaters.
  • No oil–not even extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • Eat 100% Whole Grain products. Ingredients must say, Whole Wheat, or Whole Rye,etc. 100% stone-ground wheat is not Whole Wheat unless the word Whole appears.  Forget about semolina flour in pasta.
  • Do not drink fruit juice. Fruit is fine.  A little juice used to saute, or season recipes or for salad dressings is fine.
  • Do not eat nuts, even walnuts unless you do not have heart disease.
  • Do not eat avocados, especially if you already have heart disease.
  • Do not eat coconut, especially if you already have heart disease.
  • Eat soy products cautiously.  They are high in fat (40% +) and many are highly processed.
  • Reduce sugar as much as possible.  When you do use it for recipes, stick to the more unprocessed varieties.
  • Read all labels, especially THE INGREDIENTS!!!
  • The Rest of the World of Vegetables, Fruit, Legumes, and Whole Grains is Yours.

Heart Attack Proof

Eating a standard western diet, full of fat, cholesterol, and added oils is not only making us one of the fattest countries ever, it’s also making us one of the sickest.  We are literally eating ourselves to death.  The same foods that make us fat and clog our arteries is also a major contributor to our high cancer rates and diabetes.

It’s the food!

And blood tests, as shown by my friend and Dr Joseph Crowe, do not necessarily warn us that something is wrong.

The ONLY thing we can do, to try and prevent those major diseases, it to try to make ourselves heart attack proof.  And we do that by ditching the standard american diet of fast food, soda pop, and french fries, and moving towards a more plant-based diet of whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.

Not only will our hearts, arteries, and waist-lines thanks us –  but our children will thanks us too.

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