Reverse Heart Disease: Eat Your Way Out!

By Hans Diehl, M.D.

The sports world rejoiced when former Yale president, Bart Giamotti, became commissioner of baseball. A few months later a shocked nation wept when this respected man died suddenly at age 51, attacked by his heart.

Scenarios like this one are repeated thousands of times each day across North America. Heart disease now strikes a deadly blow to 4 out of 10 Americans.

Is There No Way Out? Does It Have To Be Like This?

Yes... and no. As long as Americans continue to eat their rich, fatty diet, the statistics will remain the same. We've known for years that a diet high in fat and cholesterol is the primary, necessary and essential cause of coronary heart disease.

But there is a way out: it requires that we lean out our high-fat diet. To the extent that we commit to do this, we can help prevent, arrest, and even reverse heart disease.

Studies have shown that a high level of homocysteine in the blood may be related to a higher than normal risk of heart disease and stroke. (Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood). Although unconfirmed, homocysteine may contribute to atherosclerosis by damaging the inner lining of arteries and promoting blood clots. Therefore lowering homocysteine is desirable and can be accomplished by adopting a healthy lifestyle. A study done at the Lifestyle Center of America showed that by changing diet and exercise, homocysteine levels in the blood could be lowered by as much as 20% in only 14 days. Are you saying that we can reverse heart disease?

It Looks More And More That Way.

The idea took on a life of its own when a young cardiologist, Dr. Dean Ornish, published a report in the Lancet medical journal, in 1990, that shook up the medical community. Dr. Ornish spent one year studying 48 men with advanced heart disease, many of whom were candidates for coronary bypass surgery.

He randomly assigned the men to two groups. Both groups were asked to quit smoking and to walk daily. In addition, the first group practiced stress management and followed a strict vegetarian diet with less than 10 percent of calories as fat and with virtually no cholesterol.

The second group was given the standard American Heart Association's "Prudent Diet" for heart disease. This diet allowed 30 percent of calories as fat and up to 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day. At the end of the year, when the results were presented at the Scientific Session of the American Heart Association in Washington, D.C., they became front-page news all over America.

Dr. Ornish reported that those on the very-low-fat vegetarian diet not only dropped their dangerous LDL-cholesterol levels by 37 percent, but 82 percent of their narrowed, plaque-filled arteries had actually widened, allowing more blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. The plaques had begun to melt down. The heart disease had, in fact, begun to reverse itself. And surprisingly, the older men with the most advanced disease had the best evidence for reversing their heart disease.

The group on the so-called Prudent Diet, however, had virtually no cholesterol drop, and most of their coronary arteries showed increased narrowing. In general, their heart disease had progressed; it had gotten worse.

You Mean The American Heart Association's Diet Did Not Help At All?

It appears that their Prudent Diet, designed for the prevention and treatment of heart disease, does NOT do its job. At the press conference Dr. Ornish concluded: "The moderate diet recommendations of the American Heart Association do not go far enough to effectively influence the progression of coronary heart disease. People with clinically demonstrated disease need to go beyond the present dietary recommendation."

We have known for years that much of today's coronary heart disease could be prevented. But it's exciting to realize that, under the proper conditions, it is now also possible to reverse heart disease. This revolutionary study, and many more since then, suggests that, if given the proper diet, we may be able to eat ourselves out of heart disease.



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