1.3 million heart attacks and 800,000 strokes happen every year in America. Ideal cardiovascular health is dependent on normal blood pressure, optimal cholesterol level, BMI, not having diabetes, physical activity, not smoking and healthy diet.
As you may know one of the reasons I decided to go Vegan was because of my heart. Having had open heart surgery I want to do anything I can to not have to go through that again and maybe help me live a longer and healther lifestyle. I’m always on the lookout for articles that talk about the heart and a vegan/vegetarian diet. So here’s the article I found and I hope you get good information from it like I did.
It was the dietary U-turn of the year. Bill Clinton, former US President and former fan of barbecued ribs, announced that he’d embraced a plant-based diet: goodbye meat and dairy, hello beans and almond milk.
Some people who take this route do it for the sake of animal welfare. But Clinton’s motivation was his heart. He’d had a coronary bypass following a heart attack in 2004 and after recurring chest pain earlier this year, had two stents inserted into clogged arteries. His decision to eat an almost vegan diet (he does eat some fish), was inspired partly by US physician Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, a man who recommends avoiding any food that ever had a mother or a face.
“In Norway during World War II, the occupying German army took away much of the people’s livestock – and there was a striking reduction in heart disease and stroke,” says Esselystn, who was in Sydney this month to promote plant-based diets to treat chronic disease. “Heart disease is a food borne illness that shouldn’t exist.”
To anyone used to hearing about heart healthy fats like olive oil, Esselstyn’s hardline approach to fixing arteries damaged by disease comes as a shock. He advocates a fat intake of no more than 10 per cent of the diet, and paring all oils to a minimum. His rationale? Too many fats make it harder for blood vessels to produce the nitric oxide that keeps them healthy.
“Nitric oxide is the guardian of blood vessels – it keeps blood flowing through them, it keeps them dilated and it protects them against inflammation and blockages,” he told me. “But I’ve seen patients with arteries that have been ravaged by heart disease and whose heart bypasses have failed and whose endothelial cells – the cells that produce nitric oxide – can function normally again.”
Tough as this low-fat diet sounds, Esselstyn isn’t the only doctor to have had success with a similar diet. A 1998 study by Dr Dean Ornish, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, found that a 10 per cent fat vegetarian diet, combined with aerobic exercise, not smoking and stress management, helped improve arteries in a group of people with moderate to severe heart disease. It was Ornish’s work that also influenced Clinton’s decision to swap vege burgers for cheeseburgers.
Still, Esselstyn’s colleague Dr Hans Diehl acknowledges that not everyone who needs a diet makeover will jump at a vegetarian approach – even if a former US president has. Diehl is the man behind the US-based Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIPS), a community health program that aims to help people change their behaviour. CHIPS is now running in some parts of Australia, and undergoing pilot evaluation by the University of Western Sydney and the University of Queensland. Some CHIPS programs are run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“CHIPS doesn’t exclude animal foods – what we’re trying to do is to get people to move towards diets based on more whole foods with more fibre and less sugar and less salt,” says Diehl, Director of the Lifestyle Medicine Institute at California’s Loma Linda University. “This isn’t about dietary dogma, it’s about recognising that change comes gradually in stages. If someone goes from 20 meat meals a week to five meat meals instead then that’s a good move. But if a person has serious heart disease then a vegan diet might be their goal.”
We can only guess at what will be on the Clinton family’s Christmas menu this week, but I can tell you what the Esselstyns will be serving up: sweet potato, beans and mushrooms with gravy – but not a single slice of turkey or ham.
“After all,” says a smiling Esselstyn, who won a gold medal for rowing at the 1956 Olympics. “Christmas is no time to celebrate the destruction of your endothelial cells.”
To lighten up your Christmas menu with more veg, you could:
- Toss cooked couscous with ras-el-hanouf, roast veg, pistachios and a little olive oil.
- Marinate button mushrooms in red wine vinaigrette.
- Steam new potatoes and toss with vinaigrette, pesto, pine nuts and rocket, and serve warm or cold.
- Caramelise red onions with fresh thyme.
- Make a warm salad of roast sweet potato chunks tossed with sumac, baby leaves and crushed pecans.
Have you ever made a big change to your diet for your health’s sake?
Although this article is not talking about vegan it does have some very good points and shows that getting away from meat and going on a plant based diet can be good for you. And as it asks have you done anything about your diet to improve your health?
I have read lots of articles that say that cholesterol isn’t the real cause of heart diseae but it’s actually inflammation that causes blocked arteries. I have heard that inflammation causes a weaking of an artery and then plaque builds up to repair the damaged area. Now I don’t know for sure if that’s true or not but would explain why some people with low cholesterol are still having heart attacks. I found the following which I thought was very good information and just had to pass it along.
Inflammation is the cause and main symptom of many diseases, but is a healthy response to a bad stimuli
Inflammation is a biological response that fills an area with blood in order deliver aid to the area as well as scrap and remove damaged tissue for recycling. The body has a security system in place that creates chemical profiles in the same way that police collect data on dangerous criminal offenders. These cells carry a field guide to recognizing threatening chemicals it has encountered before. This may include molecular irritants, bacteria, viruses, or physical trauma. Trauma is communicated chemically even though a new chemical has not been detected. Since cells communicate with each other chemically, a failure of that system will indicate a problem in the same manner. The cells put in a relay call for reinforcements from the immune system.
Inflammation forces cells to work an overtime emergency shift. When the inflammation is chronic, the increased stain can manifest in subtle ways, like increased blood flow. In surface tissue, this increase will often generate a noticeable heat flush. It causes blood cells to dilate, which increases blood pressure and the workload of the heart, making the most common signs of immune response elevated body temperature and heart rate.
The immune system’s appraisal of the vegan diet
The study followed two groups of study participants for a year, measuring their cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, and amount of oxidized LDL. LDLs are commonly referred to as “the bad cholesterol”. They are used to transport excess dietary fat into adipose tissue for storage, and can be used as a guide to the degree to which cutbacks in dietary fats need to be made.
One group maintained a gluten-free and vegan diet, while the other followed a balanced but inclusive diet. Levels were tested at regular intervals. The results indicated that the gluten-free and vegan diet successfully resulted in lower levels of these bad cholesterols, where the individuals in the other control group experienced no significant change. Those on the vegan diets also experienced a surge in the production of anti-phosphocholin antibodies, which may be useful in defending against the microbes that lead to heart disease.
I hope you found the above as interesting as I did and leads me to believe that I should stick to my vegan diet as least until I get proof that it doesn’t work at all. What are your thoughts on the subject? As always share your opinions below.
I know that a vegan diet doesn’t include fish but I’ve been lead to believe that taking fish oil supplements is supposed to help prevent and help someone like me that has a history of heart disease. But what are the real facts and just who are we supposed to believe? Here’s one of the latest stories.
MONDAY, April 9, 2012 (Health.com) — Fish oil supplements, which contain omega-3 fatty acids believed to promote heart health, may not benefit people who have already had a heart attack or stroke, according to a new review of previously published studies.
The review, which appears this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, covers 14 clinical trials that included more than 20,000 people with a history of cardiovascular disease. After pooling and re-analyzing the trial data, the researchers found no differences in the risk of new cardiac events or heart-related death in people taking fish oil supplements versus placebo.
“There is no evidence that omega-3 supplementation is effective for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease,” says lead author Seung-Kwon Myung, M.D., a researcher in the department of family medicine at Seoul National University, in South Korea
But then reading another article on the same web site it goes on to say this:
The report in the Aug. 11 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology cites four trials with almost 40,000 participants that show benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, in treatment after heart attack and, most recently, in heart failure patients.
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are such an old story that such studies can go unnoticed, Lavie said. “If you polled cardiologists about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know if they would recognize how much has been done in this area,” he noted.
As far back as 2002, the American Heart Association issued a scientific statement endorsing omega-3 fatty acid intake, from fish or supplements. It recommended specific amounts of omega-3 fatty acids each day for people in general, with greater intake recommended for people with heart disease.
“For the general population, it should be 500 milligrams a day,” Lavie said. “If you have heart disease, it should be 800 or 1,000 milligrams a day.”
I guess there’s a lot of research being done on fish oil as there are lots of different studies and articles to be found as here’s another one to ponder.
For heart failure patients whose condition is controlled with standard care, omega-3 fatty acid supplements appear to improve their condition even more, a small study suggests.
“Adding n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, even in patients that had a major improvement [on standard treatment], showed a further improvement in heart function and exercise capacity,” said study co-author Dr. Mihai Gheorghiade, a professor of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
This shows that even in patients who respond to therapy, “we can make them much better,” he added. “This opens the door for the potential of a natural therapy — so-called macronutrients — in the management of heart failure.”
Gheorghiade cautioned that this study is not conclusive, but nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids might extend life and quality of life for these patients.
So who knows for sure what fish oil will do for a person. As I’ve not come across any reports that fish oil is bad for a person I think I will continue to take mine. And there are other reports that say that fish oil is good for other things besides your heart. So what are your thoughts on fish oil, good or bad? Feel free to post your comments below.