How To Reverse Heart Disease
Plaque build-up in our arteries usually happens over many years. Often, we don’t even know the damage is taking place. But boy oh boy, the end result - a heart attack - comes fast and furious. Learn how to halt arterial damage, and maybe even reverse it.5>
Can I prevent/reverse heart disease?
Most heart disease results from atherosclerosis, which is cholesterol build-up, or plaque, in the artery walls. Many people are able to stabilize and even reverse atherosclerosis with healthy lifestyle changes.
How did I get plaque in the first place?
Plaque is caused by the piling up of cholesterol, primarily LDL "bad" cholesterol, in the artery walls, resulting in inflammation. The higher your levels of LDL, the more plaque you have, and the more inflamed – and damaged – the inner walls of your arteries become.
Your LDL cholesterol rises for several reasons. Some factors, such as genetics, age, and gender, are beyond our control. Others we can control. The three key dietary factors that raise LDL cholesterol are:
- Saturated fats (such as butter, palm oil, coconut oil, meat fats, and milk fats like full-fat milk and cheese)
- Trans fats (found in margarines, vegetable shortenings, and partially hydrogenated oils)
- Dietary cholesterol (found ONLY in animal products, not plants)
How does plaque cause a heart attack?
In most cases, plaque ruptures in much the same way a boil ruptures. The rupture then triggers a blood clot that chokes off blood flow to the heart. Without oxygen, heart muscle dies. Plaque that has burst or ruptured has been called the single most common lethal event of the industrial world.
How long does it take to lower my risk of a heart attack?
The really good news is that in just three to four weeks, the chances of suffering a heart attack can go way down. Very quickly, plaque can become far less vulnerable to rupture. By stabilizing plaque, most people can significantly lower their risk of a heart attack.
How can I stabilize plaque and lower heart attack risk?
Lifestyle changes can yield dramatic benefits. In more than 100 studies published over the last 30 years, the Pritikin Program has been found to lower virtually all modifiable risk factors for a heart attack, including LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglyceride fats, and inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein, as well as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and excess weight.
Daily exercise and a diet that focuses on fiber-rich, unrefined carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are the hallmarks of the Pritikin Program. The program also substantially cuts down on heart-damaging saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol.
Heart disease is virtually absent in cultures that eat fiber-rich plant-based diets like the Pritikin Program, such as the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico, the Papua Highlanders of New Guinea, and the people of rural China. In fact, noted Dr. Colin Campbell of Cornell University in his recently published book on his research in the 1990s of the dietary habits of China, hundreds of thousands of rural Chinese go for years without a single documented heart attack.
Can the Pritikin Program help me avoid heart surgery?
The Pritikin Program has been found to eliminate the need for angioplasty and bypass surgery, as well as relieve angina (chest) pain. A five-year follow-up of 64 men who came to the Pritikin Longevity Center instead of undergoing bypass surgery (which had been recommended by their heart surgeons) found that 80% never needed the surgery. Of those taking drugs for angina pain, 62% left the Center drug-free.
The Pritikin Program has also been found to dramatically lower LDL cholesterol levels. Among more than 4,500 men and women attending the Pritikin Longevity Center, documented in the Archives of Internal Medicine, average LDL cholesterol reductions were 23% in three weeks.
What about reversal of heart disease? Can I actually regress, or shrink, plaque build-up?
Yes. Several renowned scientists, including Dean Ornish of University of California, San Francisco, and Caldwell B. Esselstyn at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, have found that plaques are stabilized and are even reversed when heart patients adopt lifestyle changes similar to the Pritikin Program.
Summarized Dr. Esselstyn in Preventive Cardiology in 2001: "Compelling data from nutritional studies, population surveys, and interventional studies support the effectiveness of a plant-based diet and aggressive lipid [cholesterol]-lowering to arrest, prevent, and selectively reverse heart disease. In essence, this is an offensive strategy."
A diet like the Pritikin Eating Plan, based on fiber-rich whole foods, "can achieve total disease arrest and selective regression even in advanced cases," concluded Dr. Esselstyn.
The Pritikin Program can regress plaque in the long run and stabilize it in the short run, which can dramatically reduce deaths from heart disease.