Scientists worldwide agree that the single most important thing you can do to lower your risk of a heart attack is to lower your cholesterol, both your total blood cholesterol and your LDL (the bad cholesterol). The safest, most effective way to lower your blood cholesterol, numerous studies have found, is by lowering the cholesterol, saturated fat, and hydrogenated fat in your diet, and by eating an abundance of natural, whole, high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
The lower your cholesterol levels, the better. The National Cholesterol Education Program recently set new lower goals for cholesterol levels. People at high risk of heart attacks are urged to get their LDL below 70. Those at moderate risk should lower their LDL below 100. The problem is: it's tough to get your LDL down to 100 and lower if your eating plan is only moderately low in fat. With a moderate 30% fat diet, several studies have documented only modest reductions in total and LDL cholesterol (about 5 to 15%).
But on an eating plan like the Pritikin Program, very low in saturated and hydrogenated fats and very high in cholesterol-lowering, high-fiber fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, people achieve phenomenal cholesterol reductions. In an analysis of 4,587 people attending the three-week program at the Pritikin Longevity Center, both total and LDL cholesterol plummeted on average 23%. (Archives of Internal Medicine, 151:1389, 1991. See also Circulation, 106: 2530, 2002.)
Larger reductions do make a difference--a difference that saves lives. In a landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Dean Ornish and colleagues compared heart patients who had made moderate lifestyle changes (a 30% fat calorie diet) with patients on a Pritikin-style diet (10% to 15% fat calorie diet). After five years, those on the 30% fat calorie diet were 2-1/2 times more likely to have suffered a heart attack, undergone bypass surgery or angioplasty, or entered a hospital for heart-related problems (JAMA, 280: 2001, 1998).
Of course, in lowering your cholesterol with the Pritikin Program, all sorts of other wonderful things start to happen, too. Within one month of graduating from the Pritikin Longevity Center, Ida Godges's total cholesterol dropped from 206 to 139. And, much to the delight of this retired airline employee from Seal Beach, California, her doctor took her off all hypertension medications. She also lost 25 pounds, and her energy level has soared. She's dancing three times a week, chasing grandchildren on soccer fields, and flying back and forth to Iowa to help her sisters with the heavy chores on their farm. "Today, I have a new life!"