The Incredible Power of Diet in Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease

The Incredible Power of Diet in Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease

Do you know anyone, perhaps a friend or family member (or maybe even yourself), who has had a heart attack?

Chances are you do. According to the American Heart Association’s 2018 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics, about 92 million American adults are living with cardiovascular disease. And every 40 seconds, a heart attack occurs in the U.S. alone. Heart disease has become a global epidemic. It’s the #1 cause of death on the planet. It’s affected my family, too. I never even got to know my great-uncle, Burt Baskin, because he died of a heart attack six years before I was born.

How Heart Disease Affected My Family

You see, my great-uncle Burt was one half of the ice-cream company, Baskin-Robbins. And the other half was my grandpa, Irvine Robbins. Can you guess what they ate their fair share of daily? We’re now pretty clear that ice cream is not a health food. But in the 1950s and 60s, my grandpa and his brother-in-law were pumping out delicious flavors by the dozen. Eventually, my grandfather began suffering from a host of health problems, including heart disease. His doctor told him he likely only had a few years of life left. But his cardiologist recommended changing his diet and handed him a copy of my dad’s book, Diet for a New America. And then, Grandpa Irv started to turn his health around.

(My dad had walked away from the family company and ice cream fortune. And he followed his own “rocky road” and became a globally recognized health authority. And now one of his readers was none other than my Grandpa Irv.)

Remarkably, my grandpa started eating fewer processed foods and less meat. He gave up sugar and, amazingly, he even gave up ice cream. He started eating a lot more veggies, fruits, and whole foods. And he got results. Before long, Grandpa Irv lost 30 pounds. He ditched all his diabetes and blood-pressure medications. And he enjoyed more energy than he’d had in decades. Despite the grim prognosis, he ended up living 19 more healthy years. So what did I learn from my great-uncle Burt and Grandpa Irv’s heart disease? The Standard American Diet leads to the Standard American diseases. And if you want to turn it all around, diet is at the heart of the matter.

What is Heart Disease?

Heart attacks aren’t the only form of heart disease (or cardiovascular disease). Heart disease affects not just the heart but the blood vessels and arteries as well. There are many types of heart disease. Heart disease is a general term used to describe dysfunction of the blood vessels in various parts of the body that lead to organ dysfunction.

The most common types of heart disease are:

  • Atherosclerosis— the hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol;
  • Arrhythmia — abnormal heart rhythm;
  • Heart attack— when a clot blocks blood flow to the heart;
  • Heart valve problems— such as stenosis or prolapse;
  • And heart failure— when the heart isn’t pumping as much blood as it should.

What Factors Contribute to Heart Disease?

Certain lifestyle factors can increase your risk dramatically. Smoking, type 2 diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor diet can all contribute to the development of heart problems. That last one is especially important.

What’s Being Done About Heart Disease?

While genetics are often emphasized as a major risk factor for heart disease, they’re only one possible piece of the puzzle. In fact, the most common heart disease-related gene called heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (basically inherited high cholesterol) only occurs in about one out of 250 people. But studies have shown that even in these cases, cardiovascular disease can still be prevented through simple lifestyle changes. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and a 2012 study found just that. The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that preventative measures relating to heart disease were more cost-effective than treatments, especially when it came to high blood pressure. However, we still have a long way to go.

Doctors prescribe heart disease drugs more often than dietary changes. In 2017, the major drug companies made more than $40 billion just on drugs used to treat cardiovascular disease. And according to the American Heart Association, from 2013 to 2014, heart disease and stroke made up 14% of all health costs in the United States. In fact, in the next generation, the costs of heart disease are expected to increase to $749 billion per year. That’s nearly half the GDP of the entire country of Canada! Any way you slice it, that’s a LOT of money being spent on something that could be remedied simply by changing our diets and making other lifestyle changes.

Why Diet Matters a Great Deal for Heart Health

A growing and, frankly, overwhelming body of evidence now tells us that diet can be absolutely critical to preventing and even to reversing heart disease. And not just any diet. Studies by some of our Food Revolution Summit speakers including Dean Ornish, MD, Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., MD, and Joel Fuhrman, MD, have shown dramatic results. These and other studies have shown how eating a plant-based diet, often combined with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle, can reduce cardiovascular disease:

  • Ornish’s 1990 Lifestyle Heart Trial sawan 82% reduction in coronary atherosclerosis after only one year on a plant-based diet, without the use of statins or cholesterol-lowering drugs.
  • Similarly, Dr. Esselstyn conducteda study at Cleveland Clinic, beginning in 1985. Of the 22 patients in the original study, all of whom suffered from severe heart disease, 17 stuck to the diet and stopped the progression of disease, and four experienced a complete reversal.
  • And last year, Dr. Fuhrman publisheda study which found that when participants ate his “Nutritarian” diet, they experienced weight loss, reduction in blood pressure, and lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels and triglycerides.

What’s the Best Diet for Heart Health?

Many people are confused by all the different dietary advice we hear about. But here’s the truth: Leading nutritional experts are in general agreement about the most heart-healthy diet for humans. We now have an overwhelming body of data that makes it pretty clear: The optimal diet for heart health is one that is low in animal products (and especially processed meats), low in sugar and processed foods, and high in vegetables and other whole plant foods.

This Way of Eating Is Also Best for Preventing Other Diseases

Millions of lives (and billions of dollars) could be saved every year if we all just ate more plants. It turns out this same diet is also generally best for preventing cancertype 2 diabetesobesity, and many of the other major health ailments of our times. In fact, in 2017, medical researchers conducted a meta-analysis study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. They found that an estimated six to nine million premature deaths (including heart disease and cancer) worldwide in 2013 may have been associated with low fruit and vegetable intake. Millions of lives (and billions of dollars) could be saved every year if we all just ate more plants.I’d call that a win-win!

15 Foods for Heart Health (Show Your Heart Some Love!) 

Now you know how important diet is for heart health. So what are the specific foods you should be eating if you want to support your heart health?

Heart Healthy Foods #1 — Berries

Berries, especially the red and blue varieties, are remarkably potent, heart-healthy warriors. Results of a meta-analysis study from 2016 found that berry consumption contributed to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index. Simply consuming 1 to 2 daily portions of either strawberries, raspberries or blueberries can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Heart Healthy Foods #2 — Leafy Greens

Famous spinach-lover, Popeye the Sailor, didn’t just get outwardly strong from eating his greens. He was unknowingly strengthening the most important muscle in his body: his heart! Leafy greens, such as spinach, collards, kale, and arugula, contain an abundance of vitamin K, which helps decalcify blood vessels and protects the arteries. A meta-analysis study, published in JRSM Cardiovascular Disease, showed a 16% decrease in heart disease from a diet rich in leafy greens. To put that in context — a 16% reduction in heart disease deaths would save the lives of more than 97,000 people each year in the United States alone. So I say, “Bring on the greens!” What’s the best way to eat leafy greens? For best results, enjoy a combination of raw and cooked leafy greens for maximum nutritional benefits.

Heart Healthy Foods #3 — Avocados

Did you know that avocados have even more potassium than bananas? A single Hass avocado contains 33% of the daily recommended potassium intake. Potassium increases nitric oxide release, lowering blood pressure and improving the function of your arteries. Avocados also contain healthy monounsaturated fats, which can reduce LDL cholesterol and overall cardiovascular disease risk.

Heart Healthy Foods #4 and #5 — Nuts and Seeds

Nut and peanut butter consumption can protect your heart in a number of ways. (Note: peanuts aren’t, botanically-speaking, nuts. They’re legumes. But they’re used like nuts.) Nuts and seeds have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of inflammation, decrease body weight and insulin resistance, and improve endothelial function. Walnuts, in particular, have been extensively studied for their positive effect on LDL cholesterol. Part of the reason may have to do with their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Flax and chia seeds are also rich in healthy fats and are two of the best sources of plant-based omega-3’s, namely ALA — an essential fatty acid we can only get from food. How many nuts and seeds should you eat? One daily serving of nuts can reduce your risk of cardiovascular death by 39%. But, a little goes a long way with nuts and seeds due to their calorie density. Dr. Joel Fuhrman recommends 1-2 ounces of nuts and seeds per day (or more if you’re fit).

Heart Healthy Foods #6 — Dark Chocolate

Discovered over 2,000 years ago in Central and South America, the Latin name of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacaomeans “food of the gods.” And it’s easy to see why. The antioxidants derived from the cacao tree, found in cocoa powder and dark chocolate, are more powerful even than “superfruits” like blueberries, acai, cranberry, and pomegranate. One study even showed that high levels of dark chocolate consumption reduced cardiovascular disease by 37%, type 2 diabetes by 31%, and stroke by 29%. Those are pretty significant numbers! But even for all its benefitskeep in mind that most chocolate contains large amounts of sugar and dairy, which can mitigate its benefits. When it comes to your health, darker is better, so look for varieties that contain at least 72% cocoa. And as with many tropical foods, sourcing matters too. To avoid supporting farmer exploitation and child labor, I always encourage fair-trade-certified cocoa.

Heart Healthy Foods #7 — Beans

As a child, you may have heard the schoolyard song about beans being good for your heart. Little did you know, there’s actually some truth to that! Beans are high in a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making them a top heart-healthy food. Beans also contain phytochemicals that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress caused by a buildup of plaque and clogging of the arteries. Darker colored beans, such as adzuki beans and black beans, have the highest levels of phytochemicals. But all kinds of beans are highly nutritious and are excellent foods for heart health. Add them to soups and salads or prepare them as a main course with steamed veggies. Just one serving of beans per day can reduce your risk of heart attack by 38%, according to a 2005 study.

Heart Healthy Foods #8 — Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, an antioxidant and carotenoid that gives them their red color. As an antioxidant, lycopene can lower inflammation in your body and prevent oxidative stress that contributes to heart disease. What’s the best way to eat tomatoes? Eating raw tomatoes was shown to increase HDL (the good cholesterol) in overweight women. But cooking tomatoes actually increases their nutritional benefits, releasing even more lycopene than what’s available in their raw state. Try including cooked tomatoes in stews, chilis, and stir-fries or as a topping on zucchini or butternut squash noodles.

Heart Healthy Foods #9 — Apples

An apple a day may keep the cardiologist away. But why exactly is that? Apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber that blocks cholesterol absorption in your gut. Like beans, they also have polyphenols and other antioxidants that fight heart disease by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. One study concluded that apples could be almost as effective at preventing heart disease deaths as statins, or cholesterol-lowering drugs. Apples are a beneficial addition to any heart-healthy diet. What’s the best way to eat apples? Eat apples with the skin on. The skin provides most of the fiber and many of the other beneficial nutrients, too.

Many Spices Are Also Heart-Healthy

Low in calories and relatively inexpensive, spices are used around the world in every culture for their flavors and medicinal benefits. Indian spices, in particular, have been shown to protect against inflammation and damage caused by high cholesterol and blood sugar and to be protective against heart disease.

Heart Healthy Foods #10 — Garlic

Part of the allium family of vegetables, garlic has been used for centuries in cooking and medicine. Charaka, the father of Ayurvedic medicine, claimed that garlic maintains blood flow and strengthens the heart. Evidence exists from the National Health and Medical Research Council that ½ to a whole clove of garlic daily could lower blood cholesterol levels by up to 9%. Garlic extract has also shown anti-clotting and blood-pressure-lowering properties in studies.

Heart Healthy Foods #11 — Turmeric

A major ingredient in Indian curries, the health benefits of turmeric are far-reaching due to a powerful polyphenol called curcumin. Curcumin is what gives turmeric its yellow color. And it also has a protective role against cardiovascular disease. The antioxidant effects of curcumin can prevent heart-related complications due to diabetes, lower LDL cholesterol levels, protect against atherosclerosis, and prevent heart failure and arrhythmias. (To find out how turmeric can help you hack your genetics and avoid disease, click here.)

Heart Healthy Foods #12 — Ginger

A widely used medicinal spice, ginger is useful in treating a variety of chronic conditions, including heart disease. Ginger’s active component, gingerol, has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. In one study, mice who consumed a high dose of ginger extract for 10 weeks experienced a 76% reduction in cellular cholesterol. Another study with humans who took a 10 gram, one-time dose of dried ginger, saw a reduction in the formation of blood clots.

Heart Healthy Foods #13 — Black Pepper

Considered the “king of spices,” black pepper is rich in minerals including potassium, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure ― and zinc, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also a rich source of magnesium, which helps keep blood flow and blood vessels in tip-top shape. One study found that supplementation of black pepper in a high-fat diet increased HDL (good) and reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and reduced triglyceride levels.

Heart Healthy Foods #14 — Cinnamon

Although today we associate cinnamon with foods like apple pie, its culinary and medicinal history goes back thousands of years. Arab traders brought it to Europe in limited supplies where the then expensive spice was considered a status symbol during the Middle Ages. Cinnamon is documented in both Indian Materia Medica and Indian Medicinal Plants – A Compendium of 500 species books, classifying the spice as an herbal drug with cardiovascular benefits. In recent studies, cinnamon has been shown to help manage obesity-related high cholesterol while also increasing nitric-oxide levels.

Heart Healthy Foods #15 — Coriander

Coriander has a long and well-documented history as a treatment for cholesterol. The seeds of coriander are especially good at lowering cholesterol, which has been documented in a few different studies. One study on rats showed a significant decrease in total cholesterol and triglycerides while HDL (good) cholesterol levels increased. Another study using coriander and curry leaves found they help prevent blood clots caused by heart disease.

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

Many of the foods mentioned here aren’t only good for heart health. They’re also beneficial in fighting other diseases and chronic conditions, such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Want to show your heart, and your whole body, some love? Try loving the foods that will love you back. Bon appetit!

Reprinted from Food Revolution Network

Ocean Robbins is CEO and co-founder of the 500,000-plus-member Food Revolution Network—one of the largest communities of healthy eating advocates on the planet. He has held hundreds of live seminars and events that have touched millions of lives in 190 nations. He’s served as adjunct professor for Chapman University and is the recipient of many awards including the national Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service and the Freedom’s Flame Award. To learn more about Ocean Robbins, visit www.31dayfoodrevolution.com and www.foodrevolution.org

The Secret Ingredient to Improving Your Mood

The Secret Ingredient to Improving Your Mood

The Challenge:  We struggle to eat healthy food – the rest is just so much tastier to us!

The Science:  Consuming more daily portions of fruits and veggies greatly improves our mood.

The Solution:  The more you raise your portions of fruit and vegetables, the happier you become!

We’re all familiar with the adage as old as nutritional science itself – eating more fruits and vegetables betters our health in the long run. Indeed, vigilant mothers have impressed this fact’s importance on growing children long before medical research provided any scientific corroboration. While it feels redundant, then, to repeat an axiom that most of us have known since darn-near infancy – namely, that incorporating more fruits and veggies in our diet will, over time, improve cardiovascular health and reduce risk of cancer – the underlying issue remains: why do so many of us still struggle to actually take the advice?

Professor Andrew Oswald at the University of Warwick, proposes that our “motivation to eat healthy foods is weakened by the fact that physical-health benefits, such as protecting against cancer, accrue decades later.” Without immediately tangible gains, it is understandably difficult to justify eating more fruits and vegetables when tastier, unhealthier options abound. Why should I sacrifice current pleasure for the mere possibility of health benefits years down the line, knowing that I may or may not even be alive to reap said benefits? To the frustration of mothers worldwide, this notion of carpe diem or YOLO remains an obstacle to us all.

But what if the advantages of healthier eating weren’t just relegated to the unforeseeable future, and were, in fact, immediately tangible? Researchers at the University of Warwick, in a study that tracked more than 12,000 randomly chosen individuals, discovered that those who went from a diet containing no portions of fruits and veggies to incorporating up to eight portions experienced an improvement in mood and life satisfaction “equivalent to moving from unemployment to employment” – all in under 24 months (that’s a mere 2 years, far more palatable than the 10 or more it usually takes for physical health benefits to manifest). Oswald, head researcher of the Warwick team, concludes that eating more fruits and vegetables “boosts our happiness far more quickly that it improves human health.” The scientists, even after adjusting for the mood-enhancing effects of other circumstantial changes in people’s lives, such as income increases or new romantic partnerships, discovered that happiness continued to increase incrementally for each additional daily portion of fruits and veggies, up to a maximum of eight.

And if that weren’t motivating enough, the psychological rewards of healthier consumption actually go even further. Drs. Tamlin Conner and Caroline Horwath of the University of Otago recently uncovered a causal relationship between diet composition and day-to-day emotions. In a study that required 281 young adults to keep a daily food diary for 21 straight days, as well as to regularly rate how they felt each evening, the researchers discovered a significant day-to-day relationship between positive mood and higher consumption of fruits and vegetables. That is, when individuals ate more fruits and veggies, they consistently “reported feeling calmer, happier and more energetic”than normal, regardless of BMI. Additional analysis revealed that improvements in mood continued into the following day, suggesting a causal link between healthy eating and positive psychological states. Importantly, this relationship did not hold true for any other food type!

To concerned mothers everywhere: you can now encourage eating more fruits and veggies with added gusto. The benefits not only include long-term improvement of cardiovascular health and decreased risk of cancer, but also much more immediate gains in happiness, energy and overall mood. Feeling better in the moment is quite possibly as simple as opting for a fresh apple over a bag of salt-laden fried chips.

Originally published on Fulfillment Daily.

Amber Bodily is a sought-after medical intuitive who has helped tens of thousands of people to regain their optimal health. She is a Master FootZonologist and Instructor, Master Herbalist and Certified Aromatherapist. Along with an extensive understanding of the human body, her keen intuition pinpoints the root cause of symptoms & illness. Amber is a triathlete with three beautiful sons. She loves great food, the power of essential oils, and studying the fascinating human body. Her passion and greatest desire is to empower you to heal and thrive not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. To learn more about Amber, go to www.amberbodilyhealth.com

Top Ten Signs of Alzheimer’s

Top Ten Signs of Alzheimer’s

Note: This list is for information only and not a substitute for a consultation with a qualified professional.

Please list any concerns you have and take this sheet with you to the doctor.

  1. MEMORY LOSS THAT DISRUPTS DAILY LIFE. – One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own. What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.
  2. CHALLENGES IN PLANNING OR SOLVING PROBLEMS. – Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before. What’s a typical age-related change? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
  3. DIFFICULTY COMPLETING FAMILIAR TASKS AT HOME, AT WORK OR AT LEISURE. – People with Alzheimer’s disease often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game. What’s a typical age-related change? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.
  4. CONFUSION WITH TIME OR PLACE. – People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there. What’s a typical age-related change? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
  5. TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING VISUAL IMAGES AND SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS. – For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance, and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving. What’s a typical age-related change? Vision changes related to cataracts.
  6. NEW PROBLEMS WITH WORDS IN SPEAKING OR WRITING. – People with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand clock”). What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
  7. MISPLACING THINGS AND LOSING THE ABILITY TO RETRACE STEPS. – A person with Alzheimer’s may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time. What’s a typical age-related change? Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.
  8. DECREASED OR POOR JUDGMENT. – People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. What’s a typical age-related change? Making a bad decision once in a while.
  9. WITHDRAWAL FROM WORK OR SOCIAL ACTIVITIES. – A person with Alzheimer’s disease may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced. What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.
  10. CHANGES IN MOOD AND PERSONALITY. – The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone. What’s a typical age-related change? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing any of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s disease, please see a doctor to find the cause. Early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for your future. The Alzheimer’s Association can help. Visit alz.org/10signs or call 800.272.3900 (TTY: 866.403.3073).

(Reprinted with permission from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Visit http://www.alz.org for more information.)

Can We Heal the Polarization of Our People? Yes! and Here’s How…

Can We Heal the Polarization of Our People? Yes! and Here’s How…

Recently, I have had a couple of experiences that have brought the increasing polarization within the United States to my attention–again–and the need to heal the polarization.

Last month I came under attack on my Facebook professional page from an organized hate group of volatile medical doctors who demonstrated little concern for actual facts or science. Seems an oxymoron, right? The very same week, I realized that the TED X talk I was set to deliver shortly was being heavily censored by the hosting committee. These two events got me thinking a lot about our current culture, its divides, and how this relates to our overall health and development as a society. (more…)

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