Heart Attack: Reduce Risk and Avoid Bypass Surgery




Reduce Risk and Avoid Bypass Surgery

Understanding Heart Disease

Can I reverse heart disease?

If you’ve had a heart attack, or your doctor says you’re dangerously close to one, there may well be a solution.

Most heart disease results from atherosclerosis, which is cholesterol build-up, or plaque, in the artery walls. Many people are able to stabilize and even reverse atherosclerosis.

How did I get plaque in the first place?

Plaque is caused by the piling up of cholesterol, primarily LDL “bad” cholesterol, in the artery walls, resulting in inflammation. The higher your levels of LDL, the more plaque you have, and the more inflamed – and damaged – your artery walls become.

Your LDL cholesterol rises for several reasons. Some factors, such as genetics, age, and gender, are beyond our control. Others we can control. The three key dietary factors that raise LDL cholesterol are:

1. Saturated fats (such as butter, palm oil, coconut oil, meat fats, and milk fats)

2. Trans fats (such as margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated oils)

3. Dietary cholesterol (found ONLY in animal products, not plants)

How does plaque cause a heart attack?

In most cases, plaque ruptures in much the same way a boil ruptures. The rupture then triggers a blood clot that chokes off blood flow to the heart. Without oxygen, heart muscle dies. Plaque that has burst or ruptured has been called the single most common lethal event of the industrial world.

How long does it take to lower my risk of a heart attack?

The good news is that in just three to four weeks, the chances of suffering a heart attack can go way down. Very quickly, plaque becomes far less vulnerable to rupture. By stabilizing plaque, you could very well be lowering your risk of a heart attack by 80 to 90%.

How can I stabilize plaque and lower my risk of a heart attack?

Lifestyle changes can yield dramatic benefits. In over 100 studies published over the last 30 years, the Pritikin Program has been found to lower virtually all modifiable risk factors for a heart attack, including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein, as well as blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and excess weight.

Daily exercise and a diet that focuses on fiber-rich, unrefined carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are the hallmarks of the Pritikin Program. The program also substantially minimizes the intake of heart-damaging saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol.

Heart disease is virtually absent in cultures that eat low-fat, fiber-rich plant-based diets like the Pritikin Program, such as the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico (1), the Papua Highlanders of New Guinea (2), and the inhabitants of rural China (3). In fact, notes Dr. Colin Campbell of Cornell University in his recently published book on the dietary habits and health of China, hundreds of thousands of rural Chinese go for years without a single documented heart attack.(4)

Can the Pritikin Program help me avoid heart surgery?

The Pritikin Program has been found to eliminate the need for angioplasty and bypass surgery, as well as relieve angina pain. A five-year follow-up of 64 men who came to the Pritikin Longevity Center instead of undergoing bypass surgery found that 80% never needed surgery. Of those taking drugs for angina (chest) pain, 62% left the Center drug-free.(5)

What about reversal of heart disease? Can I actually regress, or shrink, plaque build-up?

Yes. In 1990, David Blankenhorn, M.D., of University of Southern California School of Medicine showed that a combination of drugs and diet regressed plaque lesions in the arteries of humans.(6)

In 1990 and again in 1998, Dean Ornish, M.D., of University of California, San Francisco, showed that lifestyle changes – a low-fat, fiber-rich diet similar to Pritikin, regular exercise, and stress management – caused shrinking of plaque in most people with atherosclerosis, and without the need for any heart or cholesterol-reducing medications.(7)

In 1999, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation found that a plant-based diet in conjunction with cholesterol-reducing medication reversed heart disease in 70% of patients over a 12-year period. All patients who maintained the diet achieved the cholesterol goal of less than 150 mg/dL and had no heart attacks or other heart-related problems during the 12 years. These data are particularly compelling considering that the same group had experienced more than 49 coronary events during the eight years before this study.(8)

In recent years, continuing studies have continued to demonstrate that plaques are stabilized and are less likely to rupture when heart patients adopt lifestyle-change programs like Pritikin – and plaque blockages are reversed. Wrote Dr. Esselstyn in Preventive Cardiology in 2001: “Compelling data from nutritional studies, population surveys, and interventional studies support the effectiveness of a plant-based diet and aggressive lipid [cholesterol]-lowering to arrest, prevent, and selectively reverse heart disease. In essence, this is an offensive strategy.”(9)

A diet like the Pritikin Eating Plan, based on fiber-rich plant foods, “can achieve total disease arrest and selective regression even in advanced cases,” concluded Dr. Esselstyn.

Bottom Line:

Lifestyle-change programs like the Pritikin Program can regress plaque in the long run and stabilize it in the short run, which can dramatically reduce deaths from heart disease.

1. Am J Clin Nutr, 1978; 31: 1131

2. J Chron Diseases, 1973; 26: 265

3. Am J Card, 1998; 82 (10B): 18T

4. T. Colin Campbell, PhD, The China Study: Startling Implications For Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health (Benbella Books: Dallas, Texas, 2005)

5. J Card Rehab, 1983; 3: 183

6. JAMA, 1990; 263 (12): 1646

7. JAMA, 1998; 280: 2001

8. Am J Card, 1999; 84: 339

9. Preventive Card, 2001; 4: 171

PRITIKIN ePERSPECTIVE – 02/15/06 Issue 52

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