The Plant Rx

Your resource for a plant-based diet

Archive for the ‘Heart Disease’ Category

Think eating a plant-based diet is crazy? How about this…

Posted by Jenn on January 24, 2013


Ian Before: 235lbs / 262 cholesterol / 145:110 blood pressure

Ian Before: 235 lbs / 262 cholesterol / 145:110 blood pressure

People have often described my diet as radical, drastic and extreme. Eating a plant-based diet to them, even if they agree it is the most healthy thing for you, is akin to asking them to undergo torture.  They have a myriad of responses to me, most of them echoing something to the effect of ” If I can’t enjoy my life then why bother”.   It’s unimaginable to me that they perceive my diet as so radical, drastic and extreme yet they don’t think that cracking open your chest while simultaneously slicing open your legs to take out vessels from your legs to graft to your heart isn’t? I’m beginning to think everyone should watch what is really involved in one of the surgeries, maybe then, they will understand the true meaning of the words radical, drastic and extreme. It is truly very hard for me to understand how anyone would choose bypass surgery over eating plants.  Then again, maybe they think it just won’t happen to them…

*

Those thoughts bring us to our first success story of the year, Ian Welch from Florida.  Ian can tell you first hand the difference between the two options I described above. Ian’s story is becoming the norm rather than the exception these days due to the overwhelming consumption of the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Fortunately, Ian is alive and well and is able to share his journey with us. When I asked why him why he wants to share it, he says it’s because he wish someone had shared this knowledge with him.

*

Ian tells his story:

Two years ago I could not have imagined my life today.  At the ripe old age of 40, I was diagnosed with heart disease, four major blockages that if left alone would end my life quickly.

On March 23, 2011 I had Quadruple Bypass Surgery.  I had my chest sawed open.  It was singularly the most influential event in my life and in hindsight I would not change a thing.

Ian after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery at 40 only years old.

Ian after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery at 40 only years old.

The first week out of the hospital my wife, Alicia, started us on a plant-based diet.  By December, I had lost 37 pounds and my cholesterol dropped 109 points.  Since then I have learned that eating a plant-based diet and avoiding oil can drastically improve your health.  My last carotid artery sonogram showed substantial reduction in plaque; essentially reversing 40 years of buildup in a very short period of time.  Not to mention the 20-25% weight loss.

The lightning bolt moments are as rare as a strike of electricity to the head.  They either kill you or offer you the opportunity to walk away; a second chance.  It is precisely these moments that need to be deconstructed because they happen in an instant.  These moments exist a lifetime as either regret or epiphanies.

The reality is; we have no way of knowing how we will exit this world.  For some of us, we will lead long full lives and gently succumb in our sleep at a ripe old age.  For others it will be a tragic exit, leaving loved ones to question how this could have happened.

However, the majority of us will face the challenge of fighting for our years and it comes down to a simple question.  Do you want to spend your last years in a gradual state of decline; mentally and physically?  Or do you want to challenge the odds and finish up on your feet? Your physical body has very simple needs.  It is a fact of biology.  Run your body on the core ingredients it needs, run it clean.  Don’t let your mind dictate what the body wants.  A foundation built on this simple approach will drastically move the odds of avoiding disease in your favor.

I had no plan and it ended in a hospital.  I do not want to go back to that hospital.  I share my experiences for the simple reason; I wish someone had told me sooner.  It took a life-threatening situation to become the person I am today and I like this new and improved Ian.

momdadoregon

Ian in Dec. 2011 after adopting a plant-based diet. 198 lbs / 153 Cholesterol / 105:75 blood pressure

*

Ian Welch: In 2011, at the age of 40, Ian underwent quadruple bypass surgery. Ian completely transformed his life, adopting a plant-based approach to wellness. Ian is currently writing his book; “Heart Disease Saved My Life: Harness the Power of a Chronic Disease Diagnosis.” His goal is to provide others with a plan of action when faced with difficult circumstances. Ian lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida with his wife. He is an avid long distance runner & Bikram Yoga practitioner.  He maintains a blog at www.WholeFed.org.

*

Posted in Cholesterol, Dairy, Heart Disease, Success Stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

William Castelli, MD: Heart Disease Risk, Cholesterol and Lipids in 2011: What Do We Really Know?

Posted by Jenn on March 31, 2011


Cholesterol

Image via Wikipedia

2011-02-18 William Castelli MD Heart Disease Risk, Cholesterol and Lipids in 2011: What Do We Really Know? | Interview Transcripts.


Posted in Cholesterol, Heart Disease, Stroke, Weight Loss | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Top 5 things our plant-based health study taught this M.D.

Posted by Jenn on March 7, 2011


One truly amazing thing about life is that we have the opportunity to continuously learn new things. Learning new things rocks!  And, while we were pretty sure what the outcomes would be, this was no exception.

We are still 9 days away from the official end of the plant-based health study and approximately 12-14 days from having the final results available to us and published.  That being said, while contemplating the parameters for our next study and reviewing reader submitted ideas on things they would like to see us measure in the future, I got to thinking about all the amazing things that I’ve learned so far in this one.

Here are the top 5!


1. Psoriasis

There are a lot of  anecdotal stories out there on how a plant-based diet can be beneficial in the treatment of medical conditions and disease other than heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and certain cancers.  There is also some scientific research to back up those ascertations but much more needs to be done before it can be said with a great degree of certainty that this is indeed the case.

That being said, I have never seen it first hand.  Until now! Amber, one of the study participants, has struggled with psoriasis for quite some time – experiencing a number of patches on both her arms and legs.  She has tried a number of different things to keep this chronic autoimmune condition at bay, but while some treatments have helped, none have been close to a cure.

After 30 days on a diet completely free of meat and dairy products, Amber has experienced almost 100% resolution of her patches! I’ve seen it first hand and I couldn’t be more happy for her.  It’s one thing to read or hear about these types of things but it’s quite another to see it first-hand.

2. Probiotics

It’s important not to make blanket statements about medicines/treatments especially when there isn’t any substantial clinical evidence or experience to back it up.  When it comes to probiotics there is data out there but none directly pertaining to any benefits they may or may not have when someone is transitioning to  plant-based diet.

As in the situation above, I have heard anecdotal accounts of probiotics being helpful but not much otherwise.  During the course of our study several of the participants had some gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort as a result of moving to a plant-based diet.

Note:  This is common and it is apart of the natural detoxification process.

The participants who experienced the GI upset took probiotics to help with these symptoms.  Everyone who used them said they helped.  The degree to which they helped varied from substantial to adequate.  Thus, I would say I now know that probiotics can be a useful consideration in those experiencing GI issues as the result of a switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a plant-based one.

3. Oil, oil, oil…

While everyone in the plant-based community agrees on the exclusion of meat and dairy products from our diet for prevention and reversal of disease, not everyone agrees on whether or not oils and highly saturated fat laden foods (i.e. nuts & avocados) should be omitted as well.

In fact, two of the foremost thought leaders seem to diverge on this as well: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Dean Ornish. Esselstyn’s mantra  is “moderation kills” and he advocates a plant-based diet that excludes oils, nuts, etc even if they are technically “plant-based”.

Ornish, on the other hand, is much less strict on this issue and allows for their inclusion, although he still emphasizes a diet as low in saturated fat as possible (less than 10% of daily caloric intake).  That doesn’t exactly allow for much oil anyway being that olive oil for example has approximately 120 calories per tablespoon with 2 grams (or 14%) coming from saturated fat, 78% from monounsaturated fat and 8% for polyunsaturated fat. No matter how you looks at it, olive oil is 120 calories of pure fat per tablespoon.

Without delving into the argument of good fats vs. bad fats, etc. and the reason behind why Esselstyn has adopted this stringent mantra and Ornish has not, I wasn’t 100% sure of where I stood on the whole debate other than the obvious observation that less fat is better.

I now can say that this study (in addition to a few other poignant reasons I’ll discuss in an upcoming post) has resulted in me landing on Esselstyn’s side of the fence. The reason is due to the increased triglyceride levels in some of the participants despite the reductions in their total and LDL cholesterol.  I think it is likely that these triglyceride increases seen in some of the participants are the result of increased consumption of oils, nuts and other highly saturated fat laden foods.

Additionally, when first adjusting to the switch to a plant-based diet many opt for pre-packaged processed vegan foods such as vegan cheese, veganaise, and prepared vegan meals which are extremely high in saturated fat.  Further, when eating out at mainstream restaurants the vegetarian and vegan options (which tend to be few) are often cooked in lots of oil to enhance taste. This is done to ensure that these menu items are just as tasty as there SAD counterparts.

It is my expectation that once acclimated more fully to plant-based nutrition people will end up cooking more at home and becoming more astute regarding their choices and their triglyceride levels will eventually decrease as well.

How about this for a visual: Animal fat is a solid at room temperature whereas plant is liquid.  Imagine how well that solid stuff fares in your GI tract.

4. Sugar, sugar, sugar.  Pre-diabetes, and Hemoglobin A1Cs

I love sweet things!  Who doesn’t?  We all know we should do our best to limit our consumption of these items and some of us do better than others.  If you are vegan, most likely you already limit if not exclude the consumption of sugar because the majority of it is processed with animal bone char (charcoal made from animal bones). – –actually the explanation is much more convoluted than this, but this works for our purpose here.

The participants in our study were not restricted with regard to sugar consumption.  The aim of this study was to look at the benefits of a plant-based diet on a macro level and not get lost in the details.  Please note I am not discounting the importance of these details, we simply chose not to focus on these for the sake of study compliance.

The reason this is important is because of the increasing prevalence of  “pre-diabetes” here in the U.S. and the obvious role that large amounts of sugar found in the SAD contribute to this trend. Prior to our study beginning, 4 of the 7 participants had Hemoglobin A1C values that would classify them as pre-diabetic (>5.7).  After only 30 days all 4 of the participants lowered this value by .4!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Cholesterol, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Plant-based Health Study | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Vegan on the silver screen

Posted by Jenn on March 3, 2011


Vegan on the silver screen. @ CNN

Posted in Arthritis, Cancer Prevention, Diabetes, Heart Disease, In the Media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How does a plant-based diet prevent disease? A short lesson

Posted by Jenn on January 31, 2011


There is an ever-growing mountain of evidence substantiating the numerous health benefits that a plant-based diet provides.

This colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of red blood cells in an artery shows a layer of endothelial cells (beige) surrounded by muscle (pink). by: Steve Gschmeissner / Photo Researchers Inc.

Peer-reviewed medical paper after peer-reviewed medical paper published in the most well-respected of journals have shown that a plant-based diet free of meat and dairy products is the single most powerful tool we have at our disposal to prevent and fight disease.

Not only can heart disease and diabetes be prevented but the disease progression can be stopped and reversed. If that wasn’t enough there is a multitude of research showing how the consumption of a plant-based diet’s can prevent cancer, dramatically reduce cancer recurrence rates, reduce cognitive impairment as we age (Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia) and reduce osteoporosis in addition to a myriad of others. This being the case, how exactly does something as seemingly simple and low-tech as one’s diet manage to do these things?

The short answer is this: via a gas called nitric oxide which is produced by our endothelial cells.  The problem with this very brief explanation is that most people have never heard of nitric oxide, much less endothelial cells. Consequently, that probably isn’t going to help most people understand how the very important the daily decision to eat a plant-based diet is able to accomplish such incredible feats.

What the heck are endothelial cells? and what the heck is Nitric Oxide (NO)? and how do they accomplish the mammoth task of keeping us healthy?

Endothelial cells are the thin single-layer of cells that line the interior surface of all blood vessels.  They are the cells that come in direct contact with blood flowing through our cardiovascular system.  A “healthy” endothelium can be best described as having like a Teflon coating on the vessels’ inner walls; this non-sticky quality enhancing the flow of blood.  An “unhealthy” endothelium, by contrast, acts like Velcro, grabbing white blood cells, platelets and cholesterol and packing them against the inner wall of the blood vessels narrowing them = causing the vessels to thicken over time, thereby inhibiting the flow of blood. This accumulation of “material” leads to the formation of  what are called atherosclerotic “plaques”.

healthy vs unhealthy endothelium

A healthy endothelium is not being covered by any plaque and therefore has the ability to release many beneficial substances into the blood stream.  An unhealthy endothelium  eventually narrows and thickens and resultantly loses flexibility.  The vessels can no longer expand as they should when the heart pumps blood through them. Pumping blood into stiff arteries containing plaque increases resistance to blood flow causing the heart to work harder. Your blood pressure must increase to pump the same volume of blood through these vessels.

That being said, what then determines the overall health of our endothelial cells that make up our endothelium? In other words what makes our endothelium non-stick or sticky?

That is where Nitric Oxide (NO) comes in. Remember, a healthy endothelium is able to release many beneficial substances into our blood stream.  (Note: we are born with a very healthy endothelium which means until we create an environment in which plaques are created, our vessels are healthy, slick and without plaque)  Nitric oxide is one of these substances.  Nitric oxide has a number of important functions.  One of its primary functions according to Dr. Louis J. Ignarro, the 1998 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine,

“…is to help keep the arteries and veins free of the plaque that causes stroke and to maintain normal blood pressure by relaxing arteries, thereby regulating the rate of blood flow and preventing coronaries (heart attacks)”.

He goes on to explain that,

“Nitric oxide is the body’s natural cardiovascular wonder drug”.

NO accomplishes this by controlling muscle tone of the blood vessels which directly impacts blood pressure control, inhibiting the aggregation of platelets and other particulate such as cholesterol and white blood cells.

Other functions worthy of note include: facilitation of proper kidney function, aiding in the transmission of messages between nerve cells, helping the immune system fight  viral, bacterial and parasitic infections as well as tumors, peristalsis, regulating inflammation, lowering of cholesterol levels and penile erection. Let’s discuss one of these functions in more detail to illustrate.

For example, erection of the penis during sexual excitation is mediated by NO release from the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels of the penis.  The NO release from the endothelial cells cause the blood to pool in the adjacent blood sinuses producing an erection.  Thus, if NO cannot be produced (or produced in sufficient amounts) as the result of a damaged endothelium, then an erection cannot occur. This is why difficulty getting or maintaining an erection is indicative of impending or active heart disease (= ample accumulation of plaque).  If you are currently experiencing impotence, it would be a very good idea to see your doctor such that he or she can discern the cause.

How a poor diet results in poor erections

Causes of endothelial damage  and resultant plaque formation:

  • Smoking – it decreases good cholesterol (HDL) and increases bad cholesterol (LDL) that damages your endothelial cells. Further, nicotine directly damages endothelial cells and the carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke damages the endothelium too.
  • A high fat, high cholesterol diet (particularly animal fat from meat and dairy products; plants do NOT have cholesterol) – LDL directly damages endothelial cells.
  • A diet low in fiber content (animal products do NOT contain any fiber) – High fiber foods absorb bile salts that your body uses in digestion.  Your liver manufactures bile from cholesterol.  Thus, high fiber foods are a natural way to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.
  • Diabetes – When blood sugars are beyond the normal range it causes oxidative stress to the endothelial cells resulting in damage to them.
  • Being overweight or obese – Fat cells store vitamin D and vitamin D inhibits vessel calcification (plaques eventually get harder as a result of calcification). Thus, losing weight or being at a healthy weight keeps the vitamin D in your system allowing for utilization thereby preventing plaque calcification. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Cancer Prevention, Cholesterol, Dementia, Depression, Diabetes, Heart Disease, In the Media, Inflammation, Stroke, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Bill Clinton Adopts a Plant-based diet (Video)

Posted by Jenn on January 3, 2011


Worth the encore! A must watch.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Posted in Cholesterol, Heart Disease, In the Media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Merits Of A Plant-Based Diet, Just The Facts Please

Posted by Jenn on December 28, 2010


Author: mark brohl

When it comes to a healthy diet many folks with whom I have spoken attempt to deny plain facts and plain statistics by citing one example that they hope will refute the obvious truth.

The vast majority of evidence clearly shows that a plant-based diet heals, while an animal- based diet leads to cancer and heart disease among other unfortunate health issues.

Therefore if you are having an intelligent discussion about health matters and you become overwhelmed by the facts please know that the facts do not change nor do they need adjusting just because you cite the case of your dear great grandmother as an example of one who ate bacon and eggs for breakfast, bologna for lunch, meat loaf for dinner, and smoked 2 packs of regular Camels every day and still lived to be ninety two.  This is the exception and certainly not the rule and should not be taken too seriously as a statistic since it would be difficult to find a significant amount of other individuals who could boast the same.  It should also be noted that just existing for ninety two years when in reality the last thirty of them were spent in pain racking illness does not really make a person a poster child for the merits of bacon and cigarettes.

Actually medical evidence is clear, consistent and astonishingly one sided.  Vegetarians are far less likely to suffer from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or osteoporosis.  They are also far less prone to obesity.

The largest study of its kind ever conducted was the China-Oxford-Cornell Study which revealed that a typical meat eater would be over fifteen times more likely to die from heart disease, and that women were five times more likely to suffer from breast cancer than folks who obtained no more than five percent of their protein requirements from eating animals and their by-products. This is just one study, and as previously stated the evidence is just ridiculously one sided in favor of refraining from animal foods and adhering to a plant-based diet.

These facts are not meant to infer that vegetarians cannot practice unhealthy eating and lifestyle choices, because they certainly can.  If one refrains from eating meat but instead opts for junk food and soda pop, never exercises, and does not drink enough water or get enough sleep such a person should not imagine that not eating meat is going to save his or her health.  Even if he or she were to enjoy excellent health and vitality throughout a long life this would not be a normal outcome to such a deficient lifestyle or health program.

The bottom line is that if you are a meat eater your chances of becoming a cancer, heart disease, or diabetes statistic raises exponentially, while also being far more likely to suffer osteoporosis and other diseases than those who refrain from eating animal foods.  And of course you have a far greater chance of becoming obese also.  Whether you stick your head in the sand, pull the covers over your head, or put your hands over your ears and close your eyes, it will not change the fact that your lifestyle and eating habits are killing you.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/nutrition-articles/the-merits-of-a-plant-based-diet-just-the-facts-please-3748413.html

About the Author

I am passionate about health issues, and the state of the health of our wonderful America. I believe the American diet is literally killing us and that a steady flow of money and perks from the meat, egg, and dairy industries to the U.S. government is the reason we have had a long sustained brainwashing campaign that has precipitated the shift from a predominantly plant-based diet to an animal-based diet. The result has been an unprecedented increase in heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancers of all varieties. I believe Americans are suffering from a lack of truthful information concerning our diets. I enjoy writing motivational articles that will help to correct the problem regarding this lack of information and also examine the prevailing misinformation in the light of truth.

Healthy Vegetarian Choices For Life
Dedicated to the advancement of informed choices that will benefit our health, our environment, and our animal friends.
Please visit my website at http://www.ourhealthforlife.com and look around awhile. I would very much appreciate comments concerning your reaction to what I have written as well as any input that might aid me in the task of making my site more helpful. I thank you in advance for your consideration.

Posted in Diabetes, Heart Disease, In the Media, Research/Data, Stroke | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Study: Alzheimer’s May Have Same Cause As Heart Disease, Animal-Based Diet

Posted by Jenn on December 25, 2010


Drawing comparing how a brain of an Alzheimer ...

Image via Wikipedia

Blood vessel dysfunction linked to heart disease also impacts Alzheimer’s
American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report
Study Highlights:
  • A blood vessel dysfunction linked to cardiovascular disease seems to also play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The dysfunction may help account for the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

DALLAS, Dec. 2, 2010 — A dysfunction in the lining of blood vessels that is linked to cardiovascular illness also appears to play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in Circulation Research: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain condition that typically affects people age 60 and older, depriving them of memory, reasoning and other cognitive skills. As many as 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Two distinct anomalies in the brain are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s: neurofibrillary tangles, twisted fibers composed primarily of a protein called tau that arise inside nerve cells, or neurons; and amyloid plaques, a buildup between neurons of protein fragments called amyloid beta peptides.

Previous research has found that people with multiple cardiovascular risk factors are also at greater risk for Alzheimer’s. A central feature of those cardiovascular risk factors is a nitric oxide deficiency in the endothelium, the layer of cells lining the blood vessels. Nitric oxide is crucial in vasodilation — the widening of blood vessels — which improves blood flow and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to surrounding tissue.

“If you look at any risk factor for cardiovascular disease — the standard risk factors like high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, aging — all of these have been associated with loss of nitric oxide in the endothelium, a condition known as endothelial dysfunction,” said Zvonimir S. Katusic, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study and a professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

In the study, the researchers tested whether endothelial dysfunction also plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease. Using endothelial cells from microscopic blood vessels in the human brain, the scientists chemically inhibited eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthase), an enzyme involved in nitric oxide production.

Inhibition of eNOS triggered a series of biochemical effects that led to an increase in the production of amyloid precursor protein (APP), the raw material for the amyloid plaques seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

The quantity and activity of BACE1 also increased. BACE1 is an enzyme that cleaves APP to create the amyloid beta peptides that make up the plaques.

“Once you lose that basal nitric oxide, you see the increases in APP and BACE1, and the increase in amyloid beta generation,” said Susan Austin, Ph.D., first author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Mayo Clinic.

The research team also studied tiny blood vessels in the brains of mice that had been genetically engineered to lack the eNOS enzyme. Those mice — which naturally have higher blood pressure and are prone to insulin resistance compared with normal mice — had about a 50 percent reduction in nitrates and nitrites which indirectly reflect nitric oxide production. The eNOS-deficient mice also showed higher levels of amyloid beta peptide in the brain, along with more APP and BACE1.

The study suggests that preserving a healthy blood vessel wall is important in preventing cognitive impairment and ultimately Alzheimer’s disease, Katusic said. “On the cardiovascular side we’ve known for some time that preservation of healthy endothelium is critical to prevent major cardiovascular events. Now it seems this may have important implications for cognitive impairment.”

The research could help explain, for instance, how exercise benefits cardiovascular health and the aging brain, Katusic said. Previous research has shown that exercise can delay or prevent cognitive impairment.

“There is a lot of literature showing that every time you exercise, you stimulate the endothelium to produce more nitric oxide,” Katusic said. “What we have identified in this paper may help explain the reported (cognitive) benefit of exercise.”

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, an American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant, Clinical Pharmacology Training Grant and The Mayo Foundation.

Posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Heart Disease, In the Media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

MEDICAL ADVICE: Becoming Ageless

Posted by Jenn on December 24, 2010


(Source: By DESMOND EBANKS M.D., Special to the West Hartford News; Friday, November 26, 2010)

ORIGINAL URL: http://www.westhartfordnews.com/articles/2010/11/26/opinion/doc4cf006280a329446196111.txt?viewmode=fullstory

Benjamin Franklin first stated that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. While that may be more true than not, there is another certainty we all experience during the time that we are alive; namely, aging. Technically, we begin aging from the time we are born. But those first couple of decades typically offers welcome improvements in our maturity, intellectual prowess and physical capabilities. Aging, as we commonly think about it, begins in earnest in our 30’s or 40’s. That is when hormones begin to decline and generally when we may first notice subtle changes in our appearance. At the same time diminution in our physical faculties, stamina and sexual potency signals the beginning of that relentless journey downhill.

Few of us want to just go quietly into the mist. Since the days of Cleopatra and Ponce de León, if not before, people have been seeking the elusive Fountain of Youth. The longer we can maintain our youth, the less functional decline we will encounter and the less likely we will develop a chronic disease and die. And, nearly all of us are dying of chronic diseases; not old age. Genetically, we are programmed to live for 110 or 120 years. To be sure, there is no shortage of dubious promises and untested remedies to increase longevity that are available for the naïve or ill-informed. But recent scientific discoveries are unraveling the secrets of aging on a cellular level and may identify ways to slow it down.

It has been abundantly clear for some time that a healthy lifestyle with regular, vigorous exercise and a diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of chronic diseases and premature death. According to the World Health Organization, 80-90 percent of cardiovascular disease and nearly 40 percent of cancers, the two top killers of people worldwide, could be prevented with healthy lifestyle modifications. But is there an underlying biological process that can be exploited to improve, restore and prolong youthful vitality?

In 2009, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Elizabeth Blackburn, a molecular scientist and two of her colleagues for their work in uncovering the role of telomeres and the enzyme telomerase in aging, cancer and chronic diseases. Telomeres are snippets of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that function, in part, like the plastic tips on the end of shoelaces, providing stability and protection to the genetic material. Telomerase is the enzyme responsible for rebuilding and maintaining telomeres. Most normal human adult cells do not have enough active telomerase to maintain telomere length indefinitely, so each time a cell divides, the telomere shortens until a critical length is reached, signaling cell senescence or cell death. Telomere length is currently the best measure of your actual biological age compared to chronological age. It is also an important barometer of your overall health.

There is pretty clear scientific evidence pointing to an important role for telomerase activity and telomere length in the causes of human disease. Regularly, new studies are published demonstrating the correlation between telomere length and health. In a recent analysis of a subset of the National Long Term Care Survey, telomere length was associated with disability, functional status, heart disease and cancer. A recent study found a correlation between telomere length and years of healthy life. An intriguing connection has also been observed between telomere length and levels of psychological stress. This is particularly relevant since individuals subject to chronic psychological stress show a shortened lifespan and more rapid onset of diseases typically associated with aging. Researchers in Italy recently found a direct association with short telomeres and an increased risk of developing and dying from cancer. The risk of dying was eleven times higher in those with the shortest telomeres. It then stands to reason that therapies directed at preserving telomere length may slow aging and retard the onset of age-related diseases.

So what can you do to age more youthfully? Exercise has been found to increase telomerase activity. Combining the health benefits of regular exercise with a plant-based diet in a comprehensive lifestyle plan was shown to increase telomerase activity by 30 percent and improve telomere length maintenance. One of the best nutrients for activating your telomerase is trusty omega-3. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed about 600 people over a full five years. They found that daily supplements of omega-3 fish oil significantly increased telomerase activity. Vitamin supplements have also been found to increase telomere length. Two separate studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported longer telomeres in individuals taking vitamin D, E, C and B12. Managing stress and maintaining optimal hormone balance also plays a critical role. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Aging Prevention / Anti-Aging, Heart Disease, In the Media, Research/Data, Supplements (Vitamins & Minerals) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Interview: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn on Heart Health

Posted by Jenn on December 21, 2010


Green Heart (And the Green Grass Grows All Aro...

Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

(Source: By- Maryl Celiz on 11.04.10:  Original URL: http://hlifemedia.com/2010/11/htalk-dr-caldwell-esselstyn/)

As an internationally known surgeon, researcher and clinician at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., made the case for a plant-based as a cure to cardiac trouble, a feat he explains in his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Yes, you read right – prevent AND reverse. But you don’t have heart disease (yet), you say? Read on. In this revealing interview, Dr. Esselstyn, who will soon be talking plant-based heart health on the big screen in the groundbreaking film Forks Over Knives, speaks about the surprising young age we start to develop heart disease, how grave the situation is, and how we can completely avoid it.

Maryl Celiz: What in your practice prompted you to think of a plant-based diet as a treatment for heart disease?
Caldwell Esselstyn: It was sort of an evolution for me. I started out as a surgeon, and it was halfway through my surgical career when I was chairman of our breast cancer task force that it was apparent that no matter how many patients for whom I was doing breast surgery, I wasn’t doing one single thing for the next unsuspecting victim. In other words, why were people developing breast cancer, was the question. And I began sort of a global research pattern and it was striking to me that in the late 70s early 80s, even in Kenya and Africa, for instance, breast cancer was something like 20-30 times less frequently seen than in the United States. In Japan, in the early 1950s, it was very infrequently seen. But as soon as the Japanese would migrate to the United States, the second and third generation of Japanese-Americans began to have the same rate of breast cancer as their Caucasian counterpart. Perhaps even more compelling was cancer of the prostate, which, in the entire nation of Japan, in 1958 how many autopsy common deaths were there from cancer of the prostate? Eighteen – in the entire nation. Very striking public health figure. By 1978 they were up to about 137, which still pales in comparison to the over 28,000 that will die this year from prostate cancer in this country. About that time I began to feel that my bones would long be dust before I really had the answers to nutrition and cancer, although in hind sight I’m not sure that’s true. But the decision was made at that time to get at cancer through heart disease, because it was quite striking that in this global review, there were a number of cultures that were plant-based, where cardiac disease was virtually unknown. I mean, even today, if you want to look at rural China, the Papuan islands and New Guinea, central Africa, the Tarahumara indians in northern Mexico, heart disease is virtually non-existent. So, it was really very powerful epidemiological evidence, and there was some experimental evidence with animals to suggest that, if they did have a diet that was plant-based, they would be absolutely free of heart disease, and perhaps if we employed this on patients who are ravaged with heart disease, we could actually not only halt it but reverse it.

MC: How and why does a plant-based diet work to reverse heart disease?
CE: Well, to answer that question, all experts I think would agree that the initiation of heart disease, and the build up of plaque in the arteries is caused by injury to the inner lining of the artery. It’s the inner lining of the artery that has the amazing capacity to make a molecule called nitric oxide, which protects us. As long as we have absolutely lots and lots of nitric oxide being made by the lining of our artery, we’re fine. But, sadly, the typical Western diet we’ve now learned over the last 15-18 years that, every time these certain foods pass our lips, they impair, they compromise, and they injure the lining of our artery, so that it’s making less and less and less of this wonderful protective nitric oxide.  So much so that by, let’s say, age 20, the average age at which our GIs were autopsied in Korea and Vietnam, and even without a microscope, 80% of those GIs autopsies had evidence of coronary artery heart disease. That’s a pretty darn young age to have this. Now, they weren’t far enough advanced in the disease yet to have the heart attacks or the clinical events, which were probably still several decades away. But there it is, already established in people who are that young. And we thought for some time that it might be due to the stress of the military. So, another study was done 40 years later, where they looked at thousands of adults between the ages of 17 and 38, who were dying of accidents, homicides, and suicides. And low and behold, they found that the disease is now ubiquitous: everybody had it. This is pretty powerful evidence that it is the Western foods that are doing it.

MC: What are the Western foods that are causing heart disease?
CE: Studies have shown that it’s these processed oils. Olive oil – yes, even sacred olive oil. Corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil – all these processed oils injure our endothelium – our lining of our artery. So do dairy products. So do meat, fish, and chicken. We found that when we took patients who were absolutely ravaged with heart disease and had them completely eliminate those foods that injured their arteries, not only did they begin to lose weight, lose their high blood pressure, and also lose their diabetes, but most importantly, their chest pain would go away – and it would go away often extremely promptly. And also, when we did the follow up angiograms, a number of these patients had shown striking reversal of disease. And I think the ultimate proof was, how so many of them lived well beyond 20 years.

MC: The body heals itself.
CE: It certainly does.

MC: Can a single meal have a negative effect?
CE: Yes. That’s how the evidence against the Western diet was discovered. There was a classic experiment that was done by Robert Vogel, who was a wonderful cardiologist at the University of Maryland. There’s a special test called the brachial artery tourniquet test, which can show how the artery can dilate in a normal situation. They put a tourniquet in the upper arm for about five minutes and measure the diameter of the artery after you put on the tourniquet and after it’s released, and you can see a striking dilatation – that is to say, the artery will widen greatly when the tourniquet is released after having been on for five minutes. That’s due to nitric oxide. However, when they took a group of healthy young people to a fast food restaurant, one half of the group got corn flakes, and they had a wonderful normal artery response. The other half had the hash browns and sausages, and within 120 minutes after that meal, they were unable to dilate the artery. It had so injured and so compromised the endothelium. Now, being young, a couple of hours later, that slowly began to recuperate somewhat. But you can just imagine the next morning for breakfast – scrambled eggs and bacon – and lunch, they might have white bread, mayonnaise and cold cuts, and at supper time, a baked potato with sour cream, lamb chops, vegetables soaked in butter, ranch dressing on a salad, and ice cream. In other words, we in Western civilization just hammer and hammer, injure and injure, repetitively, the lining of our blood vessel – and the vessel becomes diseased.

MC: So what is your recommendation – the rules of your program? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Cancer Prevention, Heart Disease, In the Media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »