How to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease with Diet
Cardiovascular disease is shockingly the leading cause of death both locally in Australia and indeed worldwide. According to the Heart Foundation, cardiovascular disease kills one Australian every 12 minutes. This is an incredibly sobering statistic and shows the prevalence of this disease, which is largely preventable through healthy diet and lifestyle choices.
So where does diet come in?
Numerous scientific studies have proven that diet risk factors for heart disease (including coronary heart disease, strokes and heart attacks) include eating high amounts of animal protein, excessive saturated fat intake and high cholesterol levels in the body.
There are also direct correlations between increased heart disease and communities who have a diet high in animal products. Studies have even shown that migration from a country with a low incidence of heart disease to a country with higher incidence increases an individual’s risk to the same level as their new country.
Research has also shown that for every additional 100g of meat in your diet, your risk of stroke increases by 10%. A diet high in processed meat increases this risk even more. This is partly due to the high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol in meat, but that isn't the only reason. Heme iron - the type found in meat - has also been discovered to increase the risk of stroke, whereas non-heme iron - found in plants - does not.
Pollutants in the environment, such as PCBs, can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Pollutants concentrate as they move up the food chain, and are most highly concentrated in animal fat.
By stark contrast, in plant-based foods there’s a minimal amount of saturated fat (instead a plethora of healthy fats), no cholesterol and of course no animal protein. A predominantly plant-based wholefoods diet is also high in fibre, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and alkaline-inducing properties. This serves to reduce inflammation in the body, improve gut health, the quality of digestion as well as making heart disease less likely.
Research indicates that following a diet with an emphasis on plant-based whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and seeds can significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke. In regions of the world where this type of diet is eaten, the incidence of heart disease is substantially lower.
Dr Esselstyn has dedicated much of his life to studying heart disease and has evidence that supports the concept that heart disease is largely preventable by adopting a plant-based wholefoods diet.
Green leafy vegetables are particularly powerful sources of natural antioxidants - in effect smothering any oxidized plaque inside the arteries. They are also a vital component in producing a key ingredient called nitric acid - which also serves to ward off heart disease.
Our bodies have a few natural defenses to ward off heart disease, making it important that these are supported through appropriate nutrition:
The Endothelial cells keep the lining of the walls of the arteries strong and thick. The Endothelial Progenitor Cells provide regeneration of the artery wall lining. High Density Lipoproteins (HDL- the good cholesterol) providing that the anti-inflammatory molecule called Apolipoprotein is plentiful.
Heart disease is most commonly treated with drugs, stents and bypasses which serve to stabilise a condition, rather than rectify or resolve the issue holistically. Unfortunately, medication continues to lead the way in treatment plans, with little focus placed on nutrition and the powerful impact that diet has on preventing this worldwide problem.
Science-based research around the power of plant-based wholefoods to prevent, repair and ward off illness is gaining momentum however change is slow in relation to the prevalence of this disease.
*If you are concerned about your own or a family member’s health, it is always advised to seek medical advice from a professional practitioner. This article is not intended to replace formal medical opinion.
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