Say 'No' to Heart Disease

By Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Nutritional Excellence Offers The Maximum Protection!

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It affects men and women of every age and race. More than 64 million Americans suffer from one or more forms of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. All of the major risk factors that can lead to heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes, can be prevented or controlled with dietary and lifestyle interventions. In addition, with substantial nutritional intervention these diseases can be reversed without reliance on drugs or surgery.

Research has shown that heart disease is relatively easy to prevent. Men and women who lead healthy lifestyles— including making healthier food choices (even if still eating an American-style diet), getting regular exercise, maintaining healthy weight, and choosing not to smoke or drink excessively—can significantly decrease their risk of heart disease. Results of a new study reveal that a whopping 80 percent of all first-time heart attacks can be predicted by nine easily modifiable factors.1 A Canadian-led global study, funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, examined close to 30,000 people from 52 countries. It showed that the most important predictors of heart attack are cigarette smoking and abnormal blood cholesterol ratios, followed closely by high blood pressure, diabetes, abdominal obesity, stress, a lack of daily consumption of vegetables and fruit, and a lack of daily exercise. These risk factors predicted the majority of the risk in virtually every region, every ethnic group, in men and women, and in the old and the young.

Unique Recommendations

My recommendations for patients are unique because I take the recommendations of the Canadian study a step further. I show that, with nutritional excellence, the process of reversal of heart disease can be accelerated, eliminating the need for angioplasty, stent placement, and bypass. In addition, I offer recommendations to dramatically lower dangerously high lipid levels without having to utilize medications that by themselves carry substantial risk.

My precise, optimal nutritional guidelines also can offer people the opportunity of bringing their risk of cardiac-related death down to zero. I have counseled hundreds of patients with advanced heart disease over the last 15 years, many of whom had angina or were told they needed urgent bypass or angioplasty, and they all improved their heart conditions. None of them has ever had a heart attack. Heart disease is a disease of nutritional ignorance and can be avoided entirely via nutritional excellence and a healthy lifestyle.


Dangerous Diets

The dietary guidelines offered by the American Heart Association (AHA) and promoted by dietitians and physicians have been shown to be worthless at preventing heart disease. When patients follow the typical AHA advice—to reduce fat and cholesterol and to eat less red meat and more chicken and fish—we predictably see future cardiac tragedies. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the typical AHA dietary recommendations to hold cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day and reduce dietary fat to less than 30 percent don’t work.2 Those who promote this diet fail to realize that the nutritional cause of heart disease is not simply a case of eating too much fat. This misunderstanding of the basic causes of heart disease leads to many entirely preventable deaths. Following the AHA diet, heart disease patients’ conditions actually get worse, not better.

By contrast, diet and lifestyle programs such as Dean Ornish’s Lifestyle Heart Trial have documented that, in most cases, coronary artery disease can be reversed slowly with a vegetarian diet. Similarly, Caldwell Esselstyn’s program for advanced heart disease patients has been shown to result in the complete elimination of future cardiac events in those eating a low-fat vegan diet in conjunction with taking cholesterol lowering drugs. Dr. Esselstyn has followed this group of patients for 17 years, and not one of them has had a further cardiac event.3

An Even Better Approach

The dietary approach I utilize and recommend to patients is much more than a low-fat vegetarian diet. It is significantly different and considerably more effective. My program reduces cholesterol levels about twice as much, and reverses coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease much more dramatically than the Ornish approach and other low-fat vegan plans.

I have cared for hundreds of patients who—despite adherence to starch-based vegetarian diets—were unable to either lose weight, lower their blood pressure, or reverse their heart disease until they adopted my specific dietary and lifestyle recommendations. Whereas the Ornish study showed an average atherosclerosis reversal of 4 percent per year, my patients have achieved 20-40 percent reversal of plaque per year. In one of the cases described on the next page, 100 percent reversal of plaque was achieved in one year (meaning no visible plaque was found on subsequent carotid artery ultrasound one year later).

Compared with Esselstyn’s recommendations, the effect that my dietary protocol has on blood lipids and weight is so dramatic that cholesterol- lowering drugs are rarely needed. In special cases where additional cholesterol lowering is necessary, I recommend a supplement that contains plant sterols rather than prescribing drugs. Why gamble on the additional risks of using drugs when a safe, proven-effective nutritional approach is available?

Unique Nutritional Advice

My diet is unique in that—unlike the Ornish, Esselstyn, and other programs that are grain-based, soy based, or potato-based—my program is vegetable-based. Foods are selected and menus designed to maximize nutrient density, giving priority to foods that are richer in nutrients per calorie, especially in antioxidants and phytochemicals. This approach leads to more dramatic weight reduction and improvement in lipid parameters and glucose-insulin parameters than the Ornish and Esselstyn diets.

Eating a diet based on low-nutrient foods leads to cellular toxicity. This toxicity causes addictive withdrawal symptoms (toxic hunger) that are mistaken for genuine hunger, resulting in unnecessarily frequent eating and overeating. By comparison, eating a diet high in phytochemicals has a dramatic anti-inflammatory effect on tissues, lowers blood pressure, and accelerates the reversal of atherosclerosis and other diseases.

Diet Programs Compared

My dietary program is vegetable based (especially greens); includes lots of beans, nuts, and seeds; limits the use of refined oils and animal products (0-2 times per week);and focuses on getting calories from nutrient dense, high-antioxidant foods.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is grain-based; includes lots of dairy and meat products (2-4 times per day) and oils; and gets most of its calories from nutrient-poor foods.

Most vegetarian and vegan diets (Ornish, Esselstyn, McDougall, Barnard, and others) are grain- or potato- based; include lots of cooked carbohydrates and soy products; restrict nut and seed consumption; permit few or no animal products; and get most of their calories from antioxidant-poor foods.


1. Yusuf et al. Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries. Lancet 2004;364(9438):937-952.

2. Ornish D, Scherwitz IW, Billings JH, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA 1998;280:2001-2007.

3. Esselstyn CB. Resolving the coronary artery disease epidemic through plant-based nutrition. Prev Cardiol 2001;4:171-177.

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