Happy Health with Nancy
How To Prevent and Reverse Cardiovascular Disease
What Is Cardiovascular Disease? How Does It Happen?
When most people think of cardiovascular disease they automatically think of the heart. But the 60,000 miles of your arteries, capillaries and veins go everywhere through your body, bringing nourishment, hormones, immune cells, etc. to your cells, and removing waste. When you consume a high fat, animal food diet, you are continually injuring your entire cardiovascular system and subsequently your entire body.
There are many pathways for a high fat animal foods diet to injure your cardiovascular system. The main cause is chronic inflammation and chronic oxidation due to the Standard American Diet and smoking. Inflammation and oxidation are natural processes, but when your body is continually inflamed, your blood vessels are damaged, plaque forms and arterial blockages grow. Consequently, the cells in your body are harmed as they are not getting the nutrients they require. When a plaque breaks free, a clot can form and lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Also, the fat you eat goes into your blood and coats the red blood cells, making them less able to transport oxygen to your hungry cells, (as much as 20% less oxygen). The red blood cells also clump together as they are now ‘sticky’, and it is hard for your heart to push the blood through your delicate capillaries. There are many common places where damage occurs, not just to the blood vessels that feed your heart muscle. The arteries themselves require adequate blood supply, and a common result of a high fat diet is aneurism. The eyes require a good blood supply. Here you can see a before and after picture of the capillaries of the eyes before and after a high fat meal, which can result in macular degeneration.
You can see the sludgy blood in the video below:
If the delicate capillaries in your kidneys are starved, kidney disease can result, and if it is your spine, the result is back pain, and disc degeneration. If the blood vessels in the brain or feeding the brain are damaged, this can lead to vascular dementia as well as stroke.
Another place most want a good blood supply is the penis! Impotence is not a result of loss of interest, it is the blood supply that is lacking, and impotence is often called the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for heart disease. What do the drugs for erectile dysfunction do? They increase the blood supply by enhancing the chemical your blood vessels make to allow more blood through.
Many think breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women, yet heart disease claims eight times that number. No one is excluded.
Is Cardiovascular Disease Genetic?
Some people believe that this disease is genetic, however the preponderance of heart disease today, as the leading cause of death, was not a major contributor to death 150 years ago. Genes do not change in such a short time, and we can look at people who come from areas with lower incidence of heart disease and move to an area that consumes the Standard American Diet (SAD) and watch as their cardiovascular disease rates increase. Their genes did not change while they were on the airplane!
The beginning of this epidemic correlates to the use of oils, and a heavier meat diet. Some may think it runs in families, but what else runs in families? Yes, the diet!
Others may wonder why some people seem to get atherosclerosis and others not, however during the Korean War, American and Korean soldiers were autopsied, and 80 percent of American soldiers already had considerable arterial blockages, while the Korean soldiers who consumed a mainly plant based diet did not. People may have a genetic predisposition to where the atherosclerosis occurs, for example some may have disc degeneration in the back, others kidney disease or macular degeneration, and for others, the first sign of cardiovascular disease is death.
As your arteries have no pain receptors to register injury, it is largely a silent disease, until you have angina or a heart attack. If you get kidney disease or degenerated disks or macular degeneration or pain in your legs when you walk, will the doctors explain to you that these are the result of your dietary habits which led to cardiovascular disease?
High Fat Diet Versus Low Fat Diet
The brachial artery test shows how quickly or slowly blood flow is restored after constricting the artery in the upper arm, before and after consuming a high fat or low-fat meal. After a very low-fat meal, 10% or less, the blood flow returns to normal as soon as the constriction stops. However, after a high fat meal, your blood flow is constricted for six hours. This is six hours several times a day so there is literally no period of non-constriction! Taking a cholesterol lowering drug will not stop this continual damage to your vascular system.
It is possible to reduce arterial blockages with diet alone. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn shows this clearly in his research. Here is a before and after picture after 32 and 60 months on a plant-based diet. The red indicates blood flow.
What to Eat and Drink
You may wonder, ‘what can I eat?’, especially if you have been consuming the harmful Standard American Diet. It is simple -Eat plants! As close to the form they come in. Do you like potatoes? Sweet potatoes? Rice, oats, corn, peas, beans, apples, oranges, carrots? Do not be afraid of using frozen and canned food. Also, your food does not have to be organic if organic is not available or affordable. It may seem challenging at first, however, there are many internet sites and YouTube channels that feature no oil, whole food, plant-based recipes.
Many prefer to make a meal plan and batch cook on the weekends, so they are not burdened with decisions on what to eat and cook during their busier work week. Generally, five or six meals a day, not three meals and ‘snacks’ in between are the way to go, as ‘snack foods’ are usually highly processed foods. ’Snacks’ may leave you hungry, and you do not want to be hungry, or you may overeat later.
This is dietary lifestyle, not a diet. You can eat until full if they are whole plant foods without oil. High fat plant foods, like nuts, seeds and avocados should be used sparingly, and are not necessary.
Plant foods prevent the chronic inflammation and oxidation that cause cardiovascular disease. You have heard of ‘antioxidants’, they are a natural part of plants.
When making the transition to WFPB, don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Trying to do unusual things like eat two pounds of kale before breakfast, or consume only raw foods, or promise to never eat a piece of cake again is a very popular idea for people starting out, and these unrealistic goals are self defeating. It is much easier than many make it seem. No ‘special’ or ‘super foods’ need be consumed, and you will soon discover what you like to eat. It is crucial to clean your environment of all foods you do not wish to eat, and stock your pantry and refrigerator with healthy food.
‘Sludgy’ blood does not only result from a bad diet, but also from dehydration. It is important to drink 64 ounces of preferably filtered water daily. Many have success with this by filling containers with this amount and make it a goal to drink them during the day.
What Are the Risk Factors and Biomarkers?
Risk factors are statistical correlations found by looking at populations over time and observing what people eat, how they exercise (or not), sleep, etc, and what behaviors those who develop and/or die from cardiovascular and other diseases display. It can show a preponderance of diseases that go along with these lifestyles, not causation. Risk factors are more useful for predicting population health than they are for predicting the health trajectory of a specific individual.
However, we do know the mechanisms of action, (how the risk factor actually causes disease) as well. They include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and physical inactivity.
Biomarkers are measurements of blood pressure, cholesterol, and other risk factors.
It is important to understand that biomarkers are an indicator of risk for large populations, but specific people either have a disease or not. High cholesterol, for example is not a disease itself, merely an indication that disease may be present or will be. Drugs intended to treat biomarkers do not treat the cause of disease, and many have harmful side effects.
Small changes in the value of a risk factor may not have a meaningful influence on a particular person’s health outcome. These numbers are not very useful in predicting a person's future health, because they are statistical measurements that are more applicable to large groups of people than to individuals.
There are many ways these statistics can be misleading and oversimplify the complexity of a disease or process.
Physical exercise reduces the risk of CHD, MI, diabetes, and obesity, strengthens the heart muscle, widens capillaries, lowers blood pressure, LDL, and triglycerides. Exercise alone will not ‘rotor-root’ your arteries, although diet can reduce the blockages, and together bring healing. Patients with CVD should be cleared by a physician before starting an exercise program, and those who are inactive should start gradually.
Any activity is better than none. All types of exercise are effective when compared to non-exercising controls, but a combination of endurance and resistance training is the most effective.
Studies of both runners and walkers show that more exercise is better for not only preventing hypertension, but also for preventing hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.
For major health benefits, do at least 45 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity five times a week.
High Blood Pressure and High Blood Pressure Drugs
High blood pressure does not make your arteries explode! When a weight lifter is lifting, their pressure may be as high as 480 mmHg, but the arteries do not rupture. High blood pressure is not a disease. The pressure in your arteries naturally increases because your arteries are diseased and your blood is sludgy. Over time, consistently high blood pressure can weaken and damage blood vessels. It is an indicator of disease and increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.
Think of trying to water a plant in your garden with a hose that doesn’t quite reach, you kink it to make the pressure greater. Similarly, when your blood is fat filled, or thick, and your artery walls are filled with plaque and the vessels have a smaller diameter, your blood pressure needs to go up so the nutrient rich blood will reach all your hungry tissues and cells. Consuming fat increases the fatty acids in your blood and coats the red blood cells so they do not carry as much oxygen, up to 20 percent less! Also, the blood becomes ‘sludgy’, as the now sticky red blood cells clump together flow more slowly through the capillaries. Animal fats do this, and vegetable oils can sludge your blood even longer, up to ten hours after a meal.
When your body requires more pressure your kidneys increase the amount of liquid in your blood, which increases your blood pressure.
The first conclusion most reach when they are diagnosed with high blood pressure is ‘reduce salt’. Many doctors recommend this. Lowering sodium intake has a very small effect on blood pressure. Sodium is not the cause. A very small percent of people are salt sensitive, but blood pressure has been rising in America since the 1950’s and salt intake has remained the same. Its the food!
Blood pressure readings traditionally were not considered high until they were above 200mmHg, many years ago. The high levels were then lowered to 160mmHg, and in the 1990’s they were lowered to 140mmHg, instantly turning 13 million Americans into ‘sick’ people.
Drugs lower the blood pressure abnormally by poisoning your body. They can reduce the possibility of disease up to a point, if lowered to 140mmHg however, when the blood pressure is lowered further with drugs, the incidence of disease increases.
Diuretics poison the kidneys.
Beta blockers poison the heart muscle Ace inhibitors poison the adrenals.
Calcium channel blockers poison the arteries so they relax. They increase your risk of dying of CVD and cancer and increase incidences of glaucoma and bleeding.
In a meta-analysis of 4 randomized trials with 9000 participants compared drug treatment with placebo for primary prevention of cardiovascular events, drug treatment did not result in reduced mortality, stroke, heart disease, or total cardiovascular events. Common side effects include constipation, dehydration, dizziness and light-headedness, drowsiness, dry mouth, frequent urination, headaches, potassium loss, swollen and bleeding gums, and upset stomach.
Losing weight by any means will lower blood pressure, even if that method makes you sick, like chemotherapy, or a low-carb diet.
If you are newly diagnosed with high blood pressure you may want to take your blood pressure at home. Most doctors recognize this. When managing blood pressure, measure several time per day, at the same time, using the right method, and record in a journal. This allows you to see your pattern and may be helpful in identifying causes, for example, stressful events.
It is quite possible to lower your blood pressure naturally by consuming a low fat whole food plant based diet and exercise. Your risk factors for many diseases will go down, and your overall health will improve. ALWAYS work with your doctor if you are changing your diet, as your blood pressure may drop precipitously and you could faint and fall, or go into a coma.
Cholesterol and Statin Drugs
Cholesterol is commonly described as a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells, most abundant in the liver, spinal cord, and brain. It is needed to make steroid hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D, and also to provide stability for cell membranes (plants use fiber). Cholesterol can come from food or be made by the body. Circulating cholesterol is formed in the liver.
Elevated plasma cholesterol level may be sufficient to drive the development of atherosclerosis, even in the absence of other known risk factors! 'If all adults had plasma cholesterol levels <150 mg/dl, symptomatic disease would be rare.” (Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn)
High cholesterol is also a risk factor for cancer.
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is commonly called !bad” cholesterol, and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is commonly called !good” cholesterol. HDL has traditionally been viewed as protective against CVD, with higher blood levels being better, however raising HDL with drugs has not been successful in lowering risk of CVD. This shows the fallacy of simplistically taking biomarkers at face value.
Response to cholesterol in the diet differs by individual; for many, the effect is about 15% variation because of a feedback system that suppresses liver cholesterol synthesis when cholesterol is eaten.
Dietary saturated fat causes the liver to produce more cholesterol. Animal foods are the primary source of saturated fat. Just one gram of saturated fat increases LDL cholesterol by 2%.
Cholesterol in animal foods also increases serum cholesterol levels. Between 40% and 60% of dietary cholesterol is absorbed in the intestines. One egg contains 185-200 mg of cholesterol, and eating just one egg per day could increase serum cholesterol by about 8 mg/dl.
Statin drugs lower cholesterol by poisoning your liver, but have little effect on preventing heart attack, stroke and death.
One hundred percent of statin drug users can expect some loss of cognitive function. Taking statins is associated with an increased risk of all types of musculoskeletal injuries and pain. There is an increased risk of moderate or severe liver dysfunction, acute kidney failure, and cataracts.
If you are considering changing your diet, it is crucial to consult with your doctor before you change any drug treatment you may be on.
Obesity is a major risk factor for hypertension and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease. In other words, it is a risk factor for other risk factors.
A low fat whole food plant based diet works quite naturally for weight loss.
Diabetes is associated with over a two-fold increase in risk of developing coronary artery disease, mainly because of their high levels of circulating cholesterol and other lipids. Diabetics develop atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis, severe coronary heart disease, and multiple microcirculatory lesions far more easily than do normal people.
A weakened cardiovascular system makes it tougher for the pancreas, liver and kidneys to combat diabetes, and likewise, too much fat, sugar and protein in the blood raise havoc with the cardiovascular system.
A low fat whole food plant based diet works naturally for reversing type 2 diabetes, and quite quickly. Type one diabetics also benefit from this diet, often decreasing their requirements for insulin by 50% in as little as three weeks.
Supplementary Hormones and Stress
The Women's Health Initiative found that the combination of supplementary estrogen plus progestin significantly increased women"s risk of ischemic
Oral contraceptive use as well as performance-enhancing drugs are associated with higher risk of CVD
Stress and Psychological Factors
High cortisol levels are correlated with cardiovascular death among people both with and without preexisting cardiovascular disease. For example, the weeks following bereavement from loss of a spouse are a period of high cardiovascular risk.
Psychological distress is linked to higher CVD risk, but this can be because of poor behavioral choices made by distressed people like overeating, drinking too much alcohol, smoking and low physical activity.
There are many ways to reduce stress: exercise, meditation, breathing techniques, and if these do not do enough for you, cognitive behavioral therapy can work wonderfully.
Spending time in green spaces decreases stress. Green spaces are natural areas, may be in or near cities, or further away. Evidence indicates reduction in CVD, blood pressure, and diabetes with time spent in green spaces.
Pets, listening to music, and social interactions can be good for reducing stress, and have been proven to decrease your risk of many diseases.
Sleep duration, mostly short sleep, and sleep disorders have emerged as being related to adverse cardio-metabolic risk, including obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease.”
AHA Scientific Statement, Circulation, 2016
Cigarette Smoking and Second Hand Smoke
Cigarette smoking and second hand smoke are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, as they directly damage your arteries through oxidation and inflammation.
About 11% of deaths from cardiovascular disease that are due to smoking occur in those whose tobacco exposure was through secondhand smoke. Second hand smoke significantly increases your risk of stroke by 20-30% and increases your risk of CHD 25-30%.
Declines in smoking rates have been directly tied to reductions in rates of death from CVD. One third of deaths due to smoking are from CVD. Smoking does not only contribute to lung cancer!
Nicotine activates the sympathetic nervous system, even the nicotine gum and e cigarettes will increase heart rate and blood pressure, and constrict your blood vessels.
Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS), and Other Drugs
In July 2015, the FDA posted a safety announcement warning that non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Risk of heart attack and stroke can increase as early as the first week of taking a NSAID. This risk of heart attack or stroke in patients with or without heart disease, and can increase with longer use. Patients who take NSAIDS after a first heart attack are more likely to die in the first year after the heart attack compared to patients who were not treated with NSAIDS after their first heart attack. NSAIDS increase the risk of heart failure.
“FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA strengthens warning that non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause heart attacks or strokes.” http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/
Proton pump inhibitors contribute to endothelial dysfunction, leading to CVD.
Sulfonylureas (diabetes drugs), there is a black box warning due to increased risk of Heart Attack
Alcohol poisons the body and should be used rarely if at all.
Cocaine has been called "the perfect heart attack drug”.
The iron in meat directly harms the lining of your arteries.
Thiazolidinediones (diabetes drugs) another black box warning for heart failure
Aspirin: look at the evidence https://www.thennt.com/nnt/aspirin-to-prevent- a-first-heart-attack-or-stroke-2/
to Prevent a First Heart Attack or Stroke
In Summary, for those who aspirin daily for a year: Benefits
1 in 1667 were helped (cardiovascular problem prevented)
None were helped (prevented death)
1 in 2000 were helped (prevented non-fatal heart attack)
1 in 3000 were helped (prevented non-fatal stroke)
• 1 in 3333 were harmed (major bleeding event)
Aspirin to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease in Patients with Known Heart Disease or Strokes
In Summary, for those who took the aspirin:
1 in 50 were helped (cardiovascular problem prevented)
1 in 333 were helped (prevented death)
1 in 77 were helped (prevented non-fatal heart attack)
1 in 200 were helped (prevented non-fatal stroke)
1 in 400 were harmed (major bleeding event)
These surgeries can be lifesaving if you are having a heart attack, however they are mostly done voluntarily and not during an emergency. They may not be necessary or effective. If you are having a heart attack you don’t say, ‘Stop the surgery, give me a bowl of kale, rice and beans!’
Coronary Angioplasty and Stent
Coronary angioplasty does not require open heart surgery or general anesthesia, and the recovery time shorter than for major surgery. It is performed in a hospital cardiac catheterization laboratory (Cath lab). It takes about a week to recover, but it involves risk!
Often the inflating of the balloon "nicks” the plaque and causes the toxic ingredients to be released, activating clotting mechanism. The result is between 15,000 and 20,000 heart attacks per year and 10,000 deaths Within a few months 50% of arteries blocked again.
Coronary Bypass Surgery
Coronary Bypass Surgery does not result in long-term benefit most of the time because the surgery bypasses large stable, plaques and calcified arteries. It does not address the volatile plaques throughout the rest of the body. Just after surgery, 51 percent of patients have some cognitive decline, and five years later 42 percent show a twenty percent or more decline in cognitive abilities.
When diet and lifestyle are changed, these volatile plaques become stable within a few weeks, and this reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke!
http://www.dresselstyn.com/site/study03/ (article with photos)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xd2mKJnzsag (great lecture on heart disease)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXvyX3D_1B0 (hypertension, diet versus drugs lecture)