Is Heart Disease Totally Preventable?

From the November 2003 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times:

If we do a careful look at the scientific evidence at our disposal, we can make some claims with a strong degree of certainty. It is my belief that every heart attack death is an appalling tragedy because that person did not have to die. I believe every bypass surgery, every angioplasty, and every emergency treatment for heart attack could have been prevented. If all cardiac patients, heart-disease sufferers, and even those who will soon die of cardiac arrest were given the option a few years ago to choose to eat and live healthfully in order to be free of heart disease, what do you think they would have chosen to do?

I am convinced that if all of these individuals had been convincingly informed that heart disease and premature death could be avoided and that health could be improved dramatically with changes in diet and lifestyle, they would not have chosen suffering and premature death. Faced with this sober choice, diet and lifestyle changes would seem a delightfully enjoyable choice.

Here is the preliminary evidence and experience we have accumulated so far:

1. The Eat to Live vegetable, fruit, nut, and bean-based diet has been shown to be the most effective cholesterol-lowering dietary approach in medical history. This newsworthy data with the potential to save millions of lives has been ignored by the mass media. With this dietary approach, most patients drop their total cholesterol below 150 and LDL below 100, without the need for medications.

2. During the two years that the Eat to Live vegetable, fruit, nut, and bean-based diet has been under research study by the University of Southern California, patients have shown an average weight loss of forty-nine pounds, the most sustained weight loss ever recorded in a medical study in history.

3. In areas of the world where people eat a diet of unrefined plant foods, people have total cholesterol levels below 150, and there is zero incidence of heart disease in the population.1

4. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation followed a group of eighteen patients with advanced heart disease who adopted a plant-based vegetarian diet, with the addition of cholesterol-lowering drugs to maintain cholesterol levels below 150. These individuals experienced no heart attacks and no cardiologic interventions over the next twelve years, whereas in the eight years prior to the study, these patients had experienced forty-nine coronary events. Adherence to the diet was the key factor determining the absence of future cardiac disease.

5. My experience with thousands of patients over the past thirteen years, utilizing a high-nutrient, plant-based approach to diet, with the addition of natural cholesterol-lowering therapies when needed to assure adequate cholesterol-lowering, corroborates Dr. Esselstyn’s observations. No cardiac events have occurred in my patients, even patients with advanced disease, who were long-term-compliant to this cardio-protective lifestyle. Both Dr. Esselstyn’s and my patients report that their physician’s commitment to the same dietary approach was a powerful aid to patient compliance.

6. Combining modest dietary changes (as suggested by the American Heart Association and conventional physicians and dietitians) with medications to aggressively lower cholesterol lessens risk but does not result in the elimination of cardiac disease.2 To be 100 percent effective in preventing cardiac death, you need both cholesterol-lowering and adherence to the protective diet outlined in Eat to Live.

7. Aggressive dietary intervention alone significantly lessens risk, but does not preclude the possibility of cardiac disease. You need to assure cholesterol-lowering in conjunction with a protective diet to ensure maximal effectiveness. You also need to assure homocysteine levels are normalized, with supplementation if necessary.

8. The vegetarian diets typically suggested by leading vegetarian authors and advocates do not lower cholesterol or triglycerides or improve lipid profiles to the extent that the vegetable-based Eat to Live approach does. Neither do they result in the dramatic protection and dramatic reversal of atherosclerosis seen by my patients. My approach emphasizes the consumption of cholesterol- lowering fibers and nutrients found in natural foods—greens, fruits, beans, and nuts. The Ornish studies, which demonstrated reversal of coronary artery disease in the majority of patients, likewise did not see the dramatic benefits I routinely observe.

9. Attempting risk factor reduction with drugs while patients continue to eat the toxic American diet results in only marginal benefits because patients remain overweight and glucose intolerant, and have low levels of protective phytochemicals. Since the dietary causes of disease are not eliminated, chronic illness advances. Medications can result in dangerous side effects, including muscle and liver damage, memory loss, and—in some rare cases—death. Lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar with medications while giving patients permission to continue their toxic dietary habits is unacceptably inferior care—care that results in patients gradually growing sicker and sicker.

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Health Points: Monday

More than two dozen "food detectives" fanned out in the quest to determine where the contamination had occurred along the greens' journey from field to fork. They collected spinach leaves from processing plants. They frightened cows near fields of greens to induce defecation and collect their manure. They dipped beakers into water used to irrigate farms or wash the spinach.
  • Wait, no more trans fat? Time to run out and eat Kentucky Fried Chicken—not! Well, I guess it’s still a good thing that KFC is switching to no-trans-fat soybean oil. But you still won’t find an Eat to Liver hanging with the colonel anytime soon. David B. Caruso of the Associated Press has more:
KFC's systemwide rollout is to be completed by April 2007, but the company said many of its approximately 5,500 restaurants already have switched to low linolenic soybean oil, replacing partially hydrogenated soybean oil.
  • Why—since obesity is so bad—are there so many obese people in this country and abroad? That’s a complicated question, with probably no single answer, but one thing’s for sure there’s more than just one drawback to being obese—like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Robert Preidt of Healthday News explains:
Overweight and obese women are five times more likely than lean women to have polycystic ovary syndrome, a new Spanish study finds.

Polycystic ovary syndrome, which decreases fertility, occurs when the ovaries malfunction and levels of the hormone androgen in the body are unusually high. Symptoms include acne, excess hair growth, and irregular or no menstrual periods.
The idea of using economic incentives to help people shed pounds comes up in the periodic calls for taxes on junk food. Martin B. Schmidt, an economist at the College of William and Mary, suggests a tax on food bought at drive-through windows. Describing his theory in a recent Op-Ed article in The New York Times, Dr. Schmidt said people would expend more calories if they had to get out of their cars to pick up their food.
  • I’m hardly trendy—text messaging, reality television, and the Atkins diet are all totally wasted on me. So it shouldn’t shock anyone that energy drinks don’t turn me on either. Although many doctors have taken notice because as Carla K. Johnson of the Associated Press reports caffeine overload is dangerous:
Nutritionists warn that the drinks, laden with caffeine and sugar, can hook kids on an unhealthy jolt-and-crash cycle. The caffeine comes from multiple sources, making it hard to tell how much the drinks contain. Some have B vitamins, which when taken in megadoses can cause rapid heartbeat, and numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
Nuts and chocolate: Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "They might be cashews or almonds or something like that," he says. Not peanuts, though, because of the issue with allergies. He doesn't think sugar candy is a better nutritional choice. "That sounds like a little bit of lingering fat phobia," he says. "Sugar candy has zero nutrition. Chocolate does seem to have some health benefits."

Health Points: Friday

Samples taken from a wild pig, as well as from stream water and cattle on the ranch, have tested positive for the same strain of E. coli implicated in the outbreak, Dr. Kevin Reilly of the California Department of Health Services said in a conference call with reporters.
For state officials and environmentalists, the notice, released in the form of an official advisory urging children and women who might be pregnant to eat Puget Sound chinook no more than once a week, served as "another sign that Puget Sound is sick and we must take action now," said Gov. Christine Gregoire, who is pushing for a new plan to clean up the Sound.
Chapman screamed for her husband and called 911. She ran upstairs to put on clothes for the ambulance ride and passed out in her bedroom. When firefighters arrived, they almost beat down the door before a groggy Randy Chapman turned the knob.
At Cheesecake Factory Inc., "we're known for our generous portions" and the value they offer, said Howard Gordon, a senior vice president of the chain whose signature dish is dozens of varieties of cheesecake, the ultimate sin dessert.
The incident was the latest in a string of mass food-poisoning outbreaks since August, all but one of them in schools. The cases appear to be unrelated.
"The trick is that you still have to give them candy," Aquafresh senior brand manager Tom Baxter said with a laugh. He handed out the contradictory combination of candy and toothpaste from his house in Pine last year, the first Halloween the company tried it, and he will do so again next week.
Allergic reactions differ from one person to the next and can occur within minutes to as long as eight hours after eating a peanut. A mild reaction might include an itchy rash or a tingling feeling on the lips, tongue or roof of the mouth, or nausea or stomach cramps. A more severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, may include swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, collapse or drowsiness.
''I think that parents, when they realize they just can't roll down the (vehicle) window to protect their children from second hand smoke ... will stop smoking in their cars,'' said Action on Smoking and Health director Becky Freeman.

Vegetables and Brain Health

A staple topic for Followhealthlife are the many benefits of eating leafy green vegetables—just look at all the posts:
I’m sure in a few months we’ll have double that! And news like this will certainly help get us there. According to the Associated Press new research shows eating green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, and collards may help slow the mental decline associated with getting older. Lindsey Tanner reports:
On measures of mental sharpness, older people who ate more than two servings of vegetables daily appeared about five years younger at the end of the six-year study than those who ate few or no vegetables.
Researchers believe that the healthy amounts of vitamin E contained in leafy greens help fight chemicals that damage cells. Behold the power of the green!

Health Points: Friday

A billion people out of the world's six billion population are now considered overweight, compared with 800 million who do not have enough to eat.
Researchers said the drug appeared to slow children's growth rates. They grew about a half-inch less in height and weighed 3 pounds less than expected, based on estimates of their growth.
"Hazardous electronic waste is flowing to Africa on container ships every day. It's not as dramatic as was what happened in Ivory Coast, but over the long run it will have more of an environmental impact," Jim Puckett, founder of the Seattle-based environmental watchdog, Basel Action Network, told The Associated Press by telephone from London.
Women who underwent high-dose radiation therapy to their uterus seem to be the most likely to have problems. The authors of the study, published in the Oct. 18 issue of the Journal of the
National Cancer Institute, found that half of babies born to a sampling of these women were premature, compared to roughly 20 percent among their sisters.
In an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association on Oct. 11, Dr. Daniel Menzies, a clinical research fellow in the Asthma and Allergy Research Group at the University of Dundee, said the study showed that the smoking ban “has led to a rapid and marked improvement in the health of bar workers.”
  • Keep all windows and doors to the house locked to keep her from wandering outside.
  • Don't let her sleep in a bunk bed, and put baby gates in front of stairs.
The researchers assessed the effects of modern shoes on gait and lower extremity joint loads in 75 patients with knee OA [osteoarthritis]. Their mean age was 59, their mean body mass index was 28.4, and 59 of the 75 were women.
Researchers also found that participants who were taking insulin were six times more likely to die from infectious diseases or kidney failure than non-diabetic participants. Women treated with insulin had a particularly high mortality risk.
"There are people who have been dropped to their knees" by trigeminal neuralgia, said Alana Greca, a registered nurse and director of patient support for the Trigeminal Neuralgia Association. "That's how intense and how horrendous the pain can be."
Researchers say those consuming the highest amounts of bread doubled the risk for kidney malignancy, compared to those eating the smallest amounts.
Full-time working mothers were suffering the most with 59 percent saying they were not getting enough sleep. Half of the working mothers said they were getting six or fewer hours sleep a night.
Smoking will be banned in government offices, shops and halls from January. But the ban will not be applied to bars and other places of entertainment until 2009 to give them time to adjust.
"In mice and rats ghrelin triggers the same neurons as delicious food, sexual experience, and many recreational drugs; that is, neurons that provide the sensation of pleasure and the expectation of reward," the researchers write in Friday's issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Blood Pressure: Don't Worry Be Happy

And according to a new study there’s good reason too. Research conducted by the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston suggests that having a positive outlook may help lower blood pressure in adults. Seem pretty logical to me. More from Reuters:
There is evidence that positive emotions can help keep a person's chemical and neural responses in balance, and help people handle stress better, Ostir and his team note in the latest issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.
The report makes clear that targeting people's emotional well-being could be an effective way to help control their blood pressure. I wonder what feeling good, plus a nutrient-dense would do for you, hmm...

Smoking and COPD

It seems pretty obvious to me that smokers will likely encounter lung problems down the line, but a new study has concluded that one in four smokers will develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Robert Preidt of HealthDay News explains that this percentage is higher than what was originally thought:
Overall, 25 percent of the participants developed moderate or severe COPD over the 25 years. Persistent smokers were six times more likely to develop COPD than non-smokers.

During the 25 years, there were 2,900 deaths in the study group. Of those deaths, 109 were directly attributable to COPD, and nearly all those deaths were in people who were active smokers at the start of the study. Only two non-smokers died of COPD.
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Obesity and Back Surgery

This seems like a no-brainer to me, but new research shows obesity increases the risk that patients will endure complications during spinal surgery. Robert Preidt of HealthDay News reports:
Extremely overweight and obese patients were much more likely to suffer complications such as blood clots, wound infections, heart problems, and deep vein thrombosis, according to study author Dr. John Ratliff, assistant professor of neurological surgery and orthopedic surgery at Jefferson Medical College.
Dr. Ratliff thinks this study should be a message for obese individuals planning to undergo elective spinal surgery to put off surgery and lose weight first.

Health Points: Friday

The toddler died Sept. 20 in Salt Lake City after developing a type of kidney failure caused by E. coli. Health officials had to wait for the results of genetic testing on the bacteria to determine whether his illness was from spinach.
A study published this week in the British Medical Journal suggests that the advantage of breastfeeding on baby's intelligence could be explained not by the effect of breastmilk on the infant's developing brain, but by the fact that women who breastfeed are more likely to have higher IQs.
Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California found that marijuana's active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, can prevent the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from breaking down more effectively than commercially marketed drugs.
There are few if ANY people in this world who have a true biological disposition toward massive accumulation of aesthetically excessive lean body mass--regardless of the intensity and volume of training. Professional bodybuilders are NARCISSISTIC FREAKS who utilize absurd training schedules, wacky nutrition practices and illegal substances to create unnatural amounts of lean body mass.
Nearly half of medical school students nationwide are now female, and as they enter the profession, they are making patient care friendlier and therefore may be less likely to get sued than male physicians. Women physicians also are more likely to serve minority, urban, and poor populations and are twice as likely to go into primary care.
It was just last week that Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler disclosed his fight against hepatitis C, a viral infection that causes liver damage. According to published reports, Tyler went through 11 months of treatment with the drug interferon. He now says the virus has been reduced to extremely low levels in his bloodstream, calling it virtually "nonexistent." Tyler's admission may help raise awareness of the potentially fatal disease.

Maybe We're All Food Addicts

I think this has happened to everyone. Have you ever felt stuffed after a big meal, and for some reason you’re compelled to eat more? A new study claims this response is the same thing that occurs in the minds of drug addicts when they think about drugs. Maggie Fox of Reuters reports:
"We saw a lot of activity in all areas of the brain, especially in the hippocampus. That region is related to learning, memory and is also related to a lot of things such as sensory and motor impulse and emotional behavior," Dr. Gene-Jack Wang of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York said.
Wang believes this information will help researchers learn more about the connection between emotions and the desire to eat.

More Western Diet Woes

Last month the Associated Press reported that obesity is rapidly becoming the marquee problem threatening global health. The report cited Thailand as an example:
Thailand's Public Health Ministry, for instance, announced Sunday that nearly one in three Thais over age 35 is at risk of obesity-related diseases.


"We are not dealing with a scientific or medical problem. We're dealing with an enormous economic problem that, it is already accepted, is going to overwhelm every medical system in the world," said Dr. Philip James, the British chairman of the International Obesity Task Force.
So here we are close to a month later and now the AFP is reporting another nation is joining the battle of the bulge. The number of obese people in Malaysia has doubled over the past ten years. Researchers attribute the earmarks of the Western diet to the increase:
The doctors, who said it was the first formal study to show obesity was rising in Malaysia, attributed the change to sedentary lifestyles, overeating and a fondness for fast food and carbonated drinks.
The report points out that Malaysian officials are concerned this lifestyle shift will usher in the woes of Western living; i.e. heart disease, cancer and diabetes.


This phenomenon has happened before. In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman talks about the people  of Crete. And how their “healthy” Mediterranean diet was pushed aside.