Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number 1 cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause. (s) While smoking, obesity, lifestyle, and genetics may contribute the leading factor is atherosclerosis. Beginning in childhood the presence of heart disease is present in “100 percent of children by age 10”. (s) Atherosc

As of 2005 “Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States for the past 80 years and is a major cause of disability.” (s) High cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, a cause of heart attacks. (s) Now, over 90 years now, in January of 2018 heart disease is still the leading cause of death in America and worldwide.

“Only one way of eating has ever been proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients: a diet centered around whole plant foods. If that’s all a whole-food, plant-based diet could do—reverse our number-one killer—shouldn’t that be the default diet until proven otherwise? The fact it may also be effective in preventing, treating, and arresting other leading killers seems to make the case for plant-based eating simply overwhelming.” (s)

“By age 10, nearly all kids have fatty streaks in their arteries. This is the first sign of atherosclerosis, the leading cause of death in the United States. So the question for most of us is not whether we should eat healthy to prevent heart disease, but whether we want to reverse the heart disease we may already have.” (s)

Take some time to read these two short, awesome stories: Frances Greger and William T. Wong. There’s countless more, time permitting I’ll add some more. I will most likely update this page from time to time as well, so please follow us on facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to stay in the loop!

What Causes Heart Disease?

Genetics

“The genetic defect producing atherosclerosis occurs in no more than 1 in 200 and possibly as low as 1 in 400 or 500 persons. This means, of course, that most persons  with atherosclerosis acquire it by the types of calories they consume.” (s)

Dietary Cholesterol

Your body uses cholesterol for various functions and it is a part of every cell of your body. But your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. When we eat another animal we are consuming their cholesterol, this is “dietary cholesterol”. When dietary cholesterol builds up in the arteries this is called atherosclerosis. (s)

Plaques narrow our arteries, vasoconstricting blood flow throughout our body. This has been shown to effect the brain (s), spine (s) (s), and even erectile dysfunction (s) can be an early sign of heart disease. (s) Plaques can can even crystalize, sharpen, and then burst under the diastolic/systolic pressure and puncture the endothelial wall resulting in death. (s)

Silent Symptoms

Having high cholesterol levels, while a risk factor for other conditions, does not itself present any signs or symptoms. Unless routinely screened through regular blood testing, high cholesterol levels will go unnoticed and could present a silent threat of heart attack or stroke. (s)

Other Sources of Heart Disease

Heme-iron, iron from eating animals, is a pro-oxidant “contributing to the development of atherosclerosis” because it “oxidizes cholesterol with free radicals”. “The risk has been quantified as a 27% increase in CVD for every 1 milligram of heme iron consumed dialy.” (s) Saturated fat also contributes to the development of atherosclerosis. (s)

“Choline and carnitine-rich foods—meat, eggs, and dairy—can be converted by gut flora into trimethylamine, which can then be turned into TMAO in our liver—a toxic compound which may increase our risk of heart failure, kidney failure, and atherosclerosis (heart attacks and strokes)” (s)

In short, various aspects of consuming animals (for example saturated fat, heme-iron, TMAO) contribute to heart disease.

World Health Organization

  • An estimated 17.7 million people died from CVDs in 2015, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke .
  • Out of the 17 million premature deaths (under the age of 70) due to noncommunicable diseases in 2015, 82% are in low- and middle-income countries, and 37% are caused by CVDs.
  • Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioural risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol using population-wide strategies.

WHO Link

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2015 were in men.1
  • About 630,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.1
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing about 366,000 people in 2015.1
  • In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Each minute, more than one person in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event.2
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most racial/ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and whites. For Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders and American Indians or Alaska Natives, heart disease is second only to cancer.3

CDC Link

  • High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key heart disease risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans(49%) have at least one of these three risk factors.
  • 10% increase in treatment of elevated cholesterol could prevent 8,000 premature deaths each year in adults aged <80 years.

CDC Link

American Heart Association & American Stroke Association

Direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular diseases and stroke total more than $320.1 billion. That includes health expenditures and lost productivity

About 2,150 Americans die each day from these diseases

Less than 1 percent of U.S. adults meet the American Heart Association’s definition for “Ideal Healthy Diet.” Essentially no children meet the definition. Of the 5 components of a healthy diet, reducing sodium and increasing whole grains are the biggest challenges. (s)

Causes of high cholesterol

High cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, a cause of heart attacks. Reducing blood lipid levels may lower cardiovascular risk. A build-up of cholesterol is part of the process that narrows arteries, called atherosclerosis, in which plaques form and cause restriction of blood flow.

Reducing intake of fat in the diet helps manage cholesterol levels. In particular, it is helpful to limit foods that contain:

  • Cholesterol – from animal foods, meat, and cheese. (eggs raise oxidized LDL (s))
  • Saturated fat – found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, deep-fried, and processed foods. (s)
  • Trans fats – found in some fried and processed foods.

“Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol can significantly lower heart disease risk. Several lifestyle and dietary modifications can dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease” “Eating a diet that is low in salt, refined sugars, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol and high in fresh fruits and vegetables” Medical News Link

Lowering Cholesterol & Improve Arterial Function

Since all plants have fiber, and all animals saturated fat and cholesterol, in general, whole plant foods tend to lower our risk of dying from our number one killer, and all whole animal foods tend to raise our risk. Processed plant foods – hydrogenated vegetable oil, for example, (s)

One small, but interesting study showed 4 Brazil Nuts lowered cholesteral for 30 days. Four nuts appeared to be the better than more than 4 nuts. Brazil nuts are also high in selenium so it’s important not to exceed the daily intake. (s) Walnuts appear to lower choleseterol and improve arterial function. (s) Sprinkling vinegar on greens may augment their ability to improve endothelial function. (s) Even cocoa is a whole-food, plant based way to improve arterial function! (s)

Diverse mushrooms, including common and specialty mushrooms, can protect against cardiovascular disease by interfering with events that contribute to atherogenesis. (s)

A report from Harvard Health has identified “cholesterol lowering foods” that actively decrease cholesterol levels: (s)

  • Oats are an easy first step to improving your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber. (The average American gets about half that amount.)
  • Barley and other whole grains like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.
  • Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take awhile for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices — from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food.
  • Nuts a bushel of studies shows that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.
  • Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.
  • Soy eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. Analyses show that the effect is more modest — consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day (10 ounces of tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by 5% to 6%.
  • Fiber rich foods “can flush excess cholesterol out of the system” and “may also reduce the risk of stroke, high cholesterol and potentially heart disease.” (s)
  • Eggplant and okra

They also mention fish a couple times a week because of their omega 3’s. However, there are many issues with fish being polluted and even consumers not getting the fish they think they’re getting! “Scientists have estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish.” (S) There a lot more issues than this with fish as well (see playlist for more details).

An absolutely better source of omega 3 is milled flax and/or walnuts to name a couple. Flax is easy to add to your Oats and many other recipes, like smoothies. Flax also has lignans which help against cancer as well as other powerful attributes. (s) (s) (s)

Eating flax and nuts with other antioxidant rich foods, like blueberries in your oat meal or a smoothie or even a salad increases  absorption 10 fold of those antioxidants and at least hundreds of phytonutrients! And, mix in some water with the flax and you’ve got a great, healthy, safe egg alternative! (see “who says eggs aren’t healthy or safe?) (egg alternative).

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