The truth is that this disease need never occur at all. For the great majority of this planet’s population – the 4 billion who do not participate in the Western lifestyle – it simply does not exist.
— Dr Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, page 11)
The World Health Organization states that:
Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in the world
In 2015, 17.7 million people died from cardiovascular disease
7,4 million of these deaths are due to coronary heart disease
6,7 million of these deaths are due to stroke.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
One of the common symptoms of heart disease is chest pain (angina). However, the major issue lies in the arteries.
Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) is a big issue. This hardening is a process whereby plaque builds up on the inner linings of the arteries, which can lead to a narrowing or blocking of the arteries and eventually to a heart attack or stroke.
My research shows that this process is preventable – and that through nutrition (plus, in some cases, low doses of cholesterol-lowering drugs) the risk of heart attack and heart failure can be eliminated.
— Dr Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, page 16)
Cause of Heart Disease
The cause of plaque (atherosclerosis) building up in your arteries is too much cholesterol in the blood. High cholesterol is one of the main risk factors for heart disease. High blood cholesterol levels are associated with the intake of high-fat products such as meat, fish, dairy, and oil.
What happens to cholesterol when you stop eating these foods?
Cure of Heart Disease
Some places on earth have exceptionally low rates of heart disease compared to others. People living in Okinawa (Japan) are an example of that. The Okinawa diet is largely plant-based and has been associated with a range of health benefits, including a low risk of cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Esselstyn put 18 patients with heart disease on a whole food plant based, oil-free diet and a low dose of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Within a few weeks, their cholesterol levels dropped significantly.
In one of his patients, cholesterol levels dropped from 248 mg/dL to 137 mg/dL within 10 days. Scans showed that there was restored circulation in the area of the heart muscle that was deprived. Patients also discovered that their angina (chest pain) had disappeared.
At the 5-year mark, 11 out of 11 patients who took an angiogram showed no progression of their heart disease. 8 out of 11 patients even showed improvement in their arteries and reversed their heart disease by 10-30%. They had sustained cholesterol levels below 150 mg/dL.
A person who maintains blood cholesterol under 150 mg/dL for a lifetime will not develop coronary artery disease.
— Dr Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, page 37)
The China Study brought further insight into this cholesterol and heart disease association. It found that the average range of cholesterol among people living in rural China is between 127 mg/dL, compared to an average cholesterol level of 215 mg/dL in the United States. Some rural Chinese counties had average cholesterol levels as low as 94 mg/dL!
Important to note is that diets in rural China are centered around whole plant foods such as grains and vegetables. In these places, coronary artery disease barely exists.
American men have a seventeen times higher risk of death due to coronary heart disease than men living in rural China.
— Dr Campbell (The China Study, page 78-79)
When you transition to a Whole Food Plant Based lifestyle, all sorts of challenges appear on the path. If you are really serious about this, you may need to give up some of your favorite foods and flavors and try to replace them for new ones. You may feel limited at first, but you’ll be surprised by the variety of new foods and flavors. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of 5 simple food tips.