Heart Health: How a Plant-based Diet Can Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease  
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Greetings and welcome to today’s Healthy Living where we will explore scientific findings on the function of a vegan lifestyle in the prevention and reversal of heart disease.

Research has shown that many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer, are largely caused by unhealthy dietary habits. In recent decades, numerous experts and researchers have been trying to find effective ways to successfully prevent and treat heart disease. As a result, many new treatment methods have emerged including coronary-artery-bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty and stent implantation, as well as various tests.

Although these methods can significantly reduce the mortality rate from heart disease, they can only alleviate the problem to a limited extent. Moreover, these new techniques are also incapable of minimizing the incidence of heart disease.

Today increasing numbers of people around the world, especially in developing countries with rapid economic growth, are experiencing more heart-related health problems.  Traditional methods of treating heart disease and are being looked at as viable alternatives. 

One factor is in the area of diet and nutrition. Studies have shown that a vegetarian, meaning animal-free diet, is an effective way to prevent, treat and reverse heart problems. In many cases, patients with serious heart ailments regain their health just by changing to a vegan diet, without undergoing surgery.

As early as in the middle of the last century, scientists discovered that reducing consumption of animal products can significantly improve heart health.

One of the forerunners in this area, Dr. Lester M. Morrison, a physician from California, USA, studied the relationship between dietary habits and heart disease. His research, which began in 1946 and lasted more than 12 years, revealed that reducing the consumption of meat, milk and egg products can significantly prolong a person’s life.

The study also showed that increasing the proportion of plant-based food in the daily diet can improve the health of patients with heart disease. In the 1960s, scientists made the correlation between heart disease and cholesterol concentration in the blood.

Among numerous studies in this area, the most authoritative was the Framingham Heart Study carried out by the National Heart Institute in the United States. Launched in 1948, this long-term research program, which focused on the residents of Framingham, East Massachusetts, is still ongoing. In 1961, the Framingham researchers published their most significant discovery; namely that high blood cholesterol can significantly increase the incidence of heart disease.

According to their study, if a male adult’s cholesterol level is above 244 mg/dL (milligram per deciliter), his likelihood of suffering coronary heart disease is three times greater than that of people whose cholesterol levels are below 210 mg/dL.

These findings changed the view of the medical community, who regarded heart disease as a necessary stage of an aging heart. Scientists began to realize that heart disease can be prevented by decreasing one’s cholesterol level. Scientists had believed that high cholesterol concentration in the blood was mainly caused by the saturated fat and cholesterol in daily food, especially animal products such as meat, milk and eggs.

As studies went on, researchers began to wonder if protein intake also played a role in causing heart disease. They found that the more animal protein a person eats the higher incidence of heart disease that individual encountered. According to their research, the impact of animal protein on cholesterol level is even more significant than that of saturated fat and cholesterol.

At the same time, their findings indicated that plant protein will not increase cholesterol level. On the contrary, it can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in February 2005 supports the results of earlier research.

The 2005 study, led by Dr. Linda E. Kelemen carried out a 15-year follow-up on 29,017 postmenopausal women. The researchers concluded that women who ate the most meat had the highest risk of heart disease, while those who most often ate plant protein decreased their risk of heart disease by 30 percent.

Dr. Kelemen said that this may be through substances found in vegetable proteins that affect hormones in healthier ways.

You’re watching Healthy Living on Supreme Master Television. We’ll be right back with more on heart health after these brief messages.

Today’s Healthy Living focuses on how a plant-based diet can help in preventing and treating heart disease.

Since the 1980s, Dr. Colin Campbell, an internationally recognized nutrition expert and professor at Cornell University, led a group of leading scientists from the United States, China and the United Kingdom in conducting an unprecedented study to better understand the relationship between diet and health.

The project, now known as The China Study, included 65 rural counties in China. In these districts, plant-based food is the main diet of the local people, and their average animal protein intake is only one tenth of the intake of people in the United States.

The final results show that the Chinese in the study have a much lower incidence of heart disease than Americans. For example, the chance of the Chinese experiencing coronary disease is only one seventeenth that of Americans.

Tests have revealed that the average blood cholesterol level of the Chinese is only 127 mg/dL, which is far less than the average level of American people at 215 mg/dL. Realizing the impact of diet on heart function, some prominent heart experts have started to make creative attempts to implement a diet and nutrition approach to preventing and treating heart disease.

One of these experts is Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a renowned American surgeon. Dr. Esselstyn was one of the most respected surgeons and clinicians at the Cleveland Clinic. His study on using an animal-free diet to prevent and cure heart disease began in the mid-1980s.

So far, his program has lasted more than 20 years and its 17 participants experienced a total of 49 cardiac events before they joined the project. The majority of these people were informed by their doctors that they had less than a year to live.

In accordance with Dr. Esselstyn’s recommendations, the patients involved in the 12-year project did not receive heart surgery, but changed to a vegetarian diet and took small doses of cholesterol-lowering medicine instead.

During the first five years, they were allowed to eat some skim milk products. After five years, Dr. Esselstyn suggested that all these patients change to a vegan lifestyle, with no animal products at all. After participating in the program, the health situation of all the patients began to stabilize gradually. Five years later, their cholesterol levels decreased from
a high-risk level (an average of 246 mg /dL) down to a safe level of 137 mg /dL. By the end of 2007, the 17 participants were all still alive, and none experienced a cardiac event again.

This study shows that a vegan lifestyle is an effective way to prevent and cure heart disease; even patients with serious heart problems still have hope to recover and regain their health by following a healthy vegan diet.

Dr. Esselstyn’s research is not the only successful example of a study supporting the health benefits of veganism. The Lifestyle Heart Trial program designed by Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, has also achieved similar results.

Unlike Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Ornish does not use traditional therapy methods such as medicine. His suggested for his patients to following a vegetarian diet and stop smoking. In addition, Dr. Ornish also made sure of the mental well-being of his patients. His program offers a series of relaxation techniques for participants, including meditation, yoga and other ways to de-stress.

Every week, participants in the Lifestyle Heart Trial program meet for a total of more than eight hours to encourage each other and exchange useful experiences. From 1986 to 1992, Dr. Ornish and his associates implemented a five-year research program according to the designed method, and their results indicate that such a change in lifestyle and mental state is very effective for improving heart health.

One year after the start of the study, the average cholesterol level of the participants decreased from 227 mg/dL to 172 mg/dL. Overall, 82 percent of the patients showed improvement. The average percent diameter stenosis at baseline achieved a 4.5 percent relative improvement, while this value increased to 7.9 percent in five years.

At the same time, the chest pain symptoms of these patients eased significantly. The findings of Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Ornish are truly motivating, illustrating clearly how a plant-based diet is healthier for our hearts and overall well-being. 

May we all adopt a vegetarian lifestyle for our own health as well as that of the planet.

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