Preventing Heart Attacks with Aggressive Dietary Intervention
Most people think going to cardiologists and radiologists to get evaluated to see if they have a significant coronary blockage will enable an intervention at an early enough point to save their life; they are dead wrong. Angioplasties and stent placements as well as cardiac surgery treat symptoms, not the disease. Seventy to eighty percent of all myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) are caused by plaque that is not obstructive or visible on angiography or stress tests.
Heart attacks result from a defect in the plaque wall which leads to a thrombus (blood clot). Even a small coating of vulnerable plaque, invisible to cardiac testing, can cause a heart attack and typically does. The important point to remember is this: Individuals without major blockages of their great vessels, with only 30 to 50 percent stenosis (narrowing), are even more likely to develop a fatal cardiac event, (compared to those with more significant blockages) yet these individuals are not even shown to have heart disease with a stress test or angiography. Stress testing only identifies blockages that obstruct greater than eighty-five percent of the vessel lumen. A normal stress test is meaningless and does not mean you do not have significant heart disease or won't shortly have a heart attack.
Bypass surgery and angioplasty only attempt to treat a small segment of the diseased heart, usually with only temporary benefit. Since atherosclerotic plaque blankets all the vessels in the heart, bypassing or removing the most diseased portion, still does not address all the shallow and non-obstructive lipid deposits. The major burden of disease is left intact and therefore the potential for a deadly heart attack is largely unaffected. These mechanical interventions do not address the cause of the disease and only treat the symptoms it is not surprising that the patients undergoing bypass and angioplasty experience disease progression, graft shutdown, restenosis, and more procedures because their heart disease continues to advance.
Using surgical and high-tech interventions as a substitute for a healthful diet is doomed to fail. When extensive coronary artery disease is present and surgical/high-tech intervention occurs, we still leave the vast bulk of plaque essentially untreated because atherosclerosis is a dietary-induced disease and is spread all over the heart, not only in those areas visualized by angiograms and then treated. When we combine these marginally effective or ineffective medical interventions with the wrong dietary advice given by most doctors and dieticians (to reduce fat and cholesterol and eat less red meat and more chicken and fish) we get predictable future cardiac tragedies. Numerous studies have demonstrated that following the typical dietary recommendations of the American Heart Association to hold cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day and to reduce dietary fat to less than 30 percent doesn't work.1 These diets fail to realize that the nutritional cause of heart disease is not simply a question of eating less fat. Moderation kills, because heart disease still advances.
There is irrefutable evidence that high cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Make no doubt about it: lowering your Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol below 100 offers powerful protection against heart disease. LDL cholesterol is the bad guy that promotes the plaque that leads to blockages and heart attacks. Thus, the more LDL-cholesterol you have in your blood, the greater your risk of heart disease. The evidence is overwhelming today that heart attacks, which kill half of all Americans, are entirely preventable. Heart disease is a condition that is preventable and reversible through aggressive nutritional intervention and cholesterol-lowering.
The good news is symptoms, as well as blockages, easily melt away with nutritional excellence, without any cardiac intervention. The risks and complications of cardiac interventions and bypass surgeries are simply not necessary when people adopt an effective nutritional strategy. Instead of expensive and invasive medicine, we need doctors to educate and motivate patients to take charge of their own health. While our population is committing suicide with their knives and forks, they run to doctors expecting to be saved. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to escape from the biological laws of cause and effect. Good health has to be earned, it can't be bought.
Compelling data from numerous population and interventional studies show that the combination of a natural plant-based diet and aggressive lipid-lowering will prevent, arrest, and even reverse heart disease. Only via nutritional excellence can you address all the invisible, but potentially dangerous plaque throughout your coronary arteries. Unlike surgery and angioplasty, the dietary approach addressed in this book does not merely treat your heart, but rejuvenates all your blood vessels and protects your entire body against heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolisms, venous thrombosis, peripheral vascular disease, and vascular dementia. It is your most valuable insurance policy to secure a longer life free of medical tragedy.
Studies preformed by Dean Ornish and other investigators have also documented the effects of a low-fat vegetarian (vegan) diet on patients with heart disease and found reversal of the condition occurred in the majority of patients. The reversal was modest, but nevertheless, no study previously showed diet could be so effective at preventing and reversing heart disease.
Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic went a step further and put together a program utilizing a vegetarian plant-based diet with the addition of cholesterol-lowering medication in 18 patients who had severe angiographically demonstrated coronary artery disease. All of these high-risk patients with advanced heart disease were noted to have no coronary events during the following 12 years, and on repeat angiogram, 70% were found to have regression of their disease and none had progression.2 When you consider these 18 patients had experienced 50 coronary events during the 8 years before this study, you have to agree on the effectiveness of combining plant-based nutrition with cholesterol lowering.
I have observed the same thing in my medical practice over the last 15 years: the combination of superior nutrition with a plant-based, vegetable-predominant diet and cholesterol-lowering therapy stops heart disease cold.
1. Ornish D, Scherwitz IW, Billings JH, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA 1998;280:2001-2007.
2. Esselstyn CB, Resolving the coronary artery disease epidemic through plant-based nutrition. Prev Cardiol 2001;4:171-177.