Who has Heart Disease? Everyone?
Heart Disease Kills One Out of Every Three People - Will You be Next? The statistics are distressing. Heart disease is our nation's leading cause of death for both men and women. "More than 1.5 million people will have a heart attack this year, with about 1 million deaths as a direct consequence of heart attacks. That comes to one death every 30 seconds." Eighty-one million Americans suffer from cardiovascular disease killing one out of every three people or 831,000 each year. Chances are, several of your friends or family members have had a heart attack or died from heart disease and its complications.
Heart Disease is a Silent Killer
Many patients aren't aware that they have cardiovascular disease until they experience chest pain or have their first heart attack. This is very common since clinical symptoms are not felt until the disease has progressed significantly. The gradual clogging, hardening, loss of endothelial function and inflammation of the interior walls of the arteries goes by unnoticed for many years until symptoms develop. This is why heart disease is often referred to as the silent killer. A major heart attack may be a patient's first sign of heart disease - 64% of women and 50% of men had no previous symptoms. Over 30% of these (first heart attacks) are fatal, making the first symptom of heart disease the last.
Atherosclerosis and Heart Disease Begins in Childhood - as Young as 3 Years of Age
Atherosclerosis results in poor circulation to the extremities, the brain and other organs and is the primary cause of hypertension, heart attacks and strokes. It is a disease caused by years of eating the rich Western diet. Arteries coated in plaque are inflexible and cannot relax and dilate. These fatty cholesterol plaque deposits accumulate and coat the inside of the blood vessel walls beginning in early childhood. The fatty streaks can be seen in autopsies performed on children as young as 3 years of age. By age 10, nearly 100% of children have atherosclerotic plaque formations.
Stroke is no longer considered a disease of old age. Because children have become addicted to high-fat junk food, strokes are now occurring in younger people as well, even teens. Approximately half of overweight teens (and 37% of normal weight teens) have one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including diabetes, high LDL cholesterol, and hypertension. Even more alarming, Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona states that due to unhealthy eating habits "we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents." Click here for more information.
Similarly, autopsies performed on Korean War casualties revealed that over 77% of the hearts examined had gross evidence of arteriosclerosis. The average age of the men examined was 22 years. Some vessels were clogged 90% or more. These atherosclerotic plaques will continue to form, resulting in serious coronary artery disease by age 30-40.
Everyone has Heart Disease - Even When Some Test Results are Considered "Normal"
According to Dr. John McDougall, diseases of affluence (like heart disease) were seen mainly in "aristocrats of old" like kings and queens who could afford to eat rich foods. Yet today, nearly all Americans eat like royalty three or more times a day. The majority of daily calories comes from rich, heavily processed and high-fat animal products. Calories from whole plant foods are minimal. Quite frankly, this is why heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
The bad news is - if you are over the age of 30, unless you've eaten a diet from birth where the majority of calories comes from whole, natural plant foods, then you most likely have advanced heart disease even if you haven't experienced any symptoms. The diseased arteries just haven't progressed to the point of being detected yet. The above diagram illustrates this fact. This can also be seen here. Heart disease rates rise and fall in direct proportion to the percent of whole plant foods consumed in the diet of that population. Countries that consume the fewest whole plant foods have significantly higher rates of heart disease. As the percentage of whole plant foods increases, the incidence of heart disease decreases.
Vessel damage and plaque build up starts many years before it can be detected with current testing methods. By the time symptoms are felt, arteries may be blocked 75% or more. Many diagnostic tools aren't an accurate means of assessing your risk for heart disease because they don't detect artery blockage until the blockage is quite significant. (The heart treadmill test is one example.) Dr. Joel Fuhrman says that "Stress testing only identifies blockages that obstruct greater than eighty-five percent of the vessel lumen. A "normal" stress test is meaningless and does not mean you do not have significant heart disease or won't shortly have a heart attack. Individuals without major blockages of their great vessels, with only 30 to 50 percent stenosis (narrowing), are even more likely to develop a fatal cardiac event, (compared to those with more significant blockages) yet these individuals are not even shown to have heart disease with a stress test or angiography."
Additionally, "Being told that you have 'normal' cholesterol by your physician can be misleading. Over 50% of all heart attack and stroke patients have 'normal' cholesterol." If your total cholesterol falls within the "normal" range of 150-200, you may still be at risk for suffering a fatal heart attack. The majority of heart attacks occur in patients whose cholesterol is within "the normal range" of 150-200. In order to be truly protected, we should strive to maintain a total cholesterol level below 150. Heart disease is very rare or non-existent in those with cholesterol levels this low. Unfortunately, only 10% of Americans have cholesterol levels below 150. This can easily be achieved by eating a diet based on whole, natural plant foods. Statins give patients a false sense of security when they see their cholesterol level drop, however, their heart disease continues to progress if a high-fiber, plant-centered diet is not implemented. Statins artificially treat one of the symptoms of heart disease, they don't address the cause, which is diet. "Only excellent nutrition, not drugs, can provide complete protection against heart disease. With widespread use of statins, the nutritional causes of heart disease are not addressed, and a significant number of liver dysfunction, renal failure, myopathy, and cataract cases will be produced."
Even more concerning, most medical schools fail to provide the bare minimum in nutritional training for medical students. Out of thousands of clinical instruction hours, some may receive as little as three hours. Due to their lack of training, doctors very rarely counsel patients about lifestyle modification for chronic disease prevention. Unless they have studied nutrition on their own, especially plant-based nutrition, doctors are unaware that a whole-food, plant-based diet can prevent and reverse chronic disease.
Heart Disease is Preventable and Reversible
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1.7 million (2.8%) of deaths worldwide are attributed to inadequate fruit and vegetable intake. The good news is that the leading cause of death in America can be prevented as well as reversed using a whole-food, plant-based diet and lifestyle approach. Through the pioneering research and dedicated work of Nathan Pritikin, and Doctors Dean Ornish, John McDougall and Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. we know that the progression of heart disease can be stopped as well as reversed without the use of drugs or surgery. Optimal health depends on the health of our entire vascular system! Educating ourselves is the first step towards reducing our risk for cardiovascular disease.
For more information on how to reverse heart disease, click on the following links:
(18) Seeing is Believing!