Health

Spring Clean your Heart

Three heartsFriday is Valentine’s Day, and so, naturally, many people will be concerned with affairs of the heart. But did you know that February is also Heart Health month? And, while it’s not quite spring yet, many people will be starting their spring cleaning early by cleaning out the clogged arteries that lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes and dementia, just to name a few.

Heart disease is a major problem. Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack from clogged arteries, and for a significant portion of those victims their first heart attack will be fatal. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women. Even the threat of being at risk for a heart attack, or having to undergo surgery to bypass clogged coronary arteries, has given many a man and woman more than just a few sleepless nights.

The arteries that give rise to a heart attack are the coronary arteries, the small blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients. Cholesterol builds up inside these small arteries, which gradually become clogged. This buildup of cholesterol plaque is called atherosclerosis. If the problem is not corrected a heart attack is likely to ensue.

A common way to correct the problem is through surgery. Coronary artery bypass surgery enables many patients to live significantly longer, but it is very invasive and entails some risks and complications. Blood vessels from other parts of the body are used to create detours around the clogged arteries, but eventually these new pathways become blocked as well.

But there’s a better solution to this problem – a vegetarian solution. Scientific studies have shown, time and again, the power of a healthy vegetarian diet to unblock clogged arteries and reverse heart disease. Texas cardiologist Dean Ornish took patients destined for bypass surgery and placed them on a vegetarian diet instead of the standard meat-centered diet they were following. The results were striking. Their blockages started reducing in size, and the arteries opened up. The heart’s ability to pump started to improve in only 24 days. There was a 91% reduction in chest pain. Within a year, his patients were literally hiking up mountains.

Other doctors tried testing a vegetarian diet on their patients and achieved the same results as Ornish. At this point, countless patients around the world have been “rescued” by the humble yet powerful vegetarian diet.

It turns out that plant foods work even better than medications. Studies have shown that a low-fat vegetarian diet, by itself, is at least as powerful at lowering the cholesterol levels of patients, as the American Heart Association Diet combined with a cholesterol-lowering drug.

As the old saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The good news is that a healthy vegetarian diet helps both prevent heart disease, and reduce the risk of arteries reclogging after bypass surgery. Doctors have known about this for a long time. Back in 1961, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association said that “a vegetarian diet will reduce coronary occlusions [clogged coronary arteries] by 97%”.

The reason for this is simple. A vegetarian diet is much lower both in the saturated fat that promotes cholesterol production in our own livers, and in cholesterol itself. A vegan diet goes a step further and includes no cholesterol at all. As an extra bonus, the plant foods that are so plentiful in a vegetarian diet have also been shown to reduce blood pressure. Just as important, while you’re cleaning out your coronary arteries, you’ll also be cleaning out the arteries that lead to your brain and even your legs thus preventing or reversing the most common kind of dementia and the painful legs that many people get when walking.

The beauty of the vegetarian is that this solution is available to everyone, whether they have top-notch 24/7 healthcare or none at all. You don’t need a prescription or even a doctor’s note to change your diet today. Come to Vegfest and find out how your arteries are doing, with our free artery ultrasound scans and blood pressure screenings, and try some of the heart-healthy food you’ll find there. We think you’ll find that getting healthy never tasted so good.

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About Vegetarians of Washington

Vegetarians of Washington is a large non-profit vegetarian society based in Seattle, WA. We encourage people to discover the advantages and experience the pleasures of vegetarian food. We welcome everyone, whether you're an experienced vegetarian, a beginner or just curious. You don't have to be a vegetarian to join our organization, or to follow our blog! We run the largest vegetarian food festival in the country, Seattle's Vegfest, held in the Seattle Center in March each year. We also host monthly dining events and give free nutrition and cooking classes. We've written four nationally published books, including our latest book "Say No to Meat" which gives the information and real-world advice that new vegetarians need the most, in an easy question-and-answer style. Our other books are the fact-filled "The Vegetarian Solution", a wide range of delicious recipes in "The Veg-Feasting Cookbook", and our guidebook to vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants in Washington and Oregon, "Vegetarian Pacific Northwest". All our books are available in local bookstores, and via our website or Amazon.com.

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