How Not to Die from Heart Disease

The most likely reason most of our loved ones will die is heart disease. It’s up to each of us to make our own decisions about what to eat and how to live, but we should make these choices consciously by educating ourselves about the predictable consequences of our actions.

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, begins in childhood. The arteries of nearly all kids raised on the standard American diet already have fatty streaks marking the first stage of the disease—by the time they are ten years old. After that, the plaques start forming in our 20s, get worse in our 30s, and then can start killing us off. In our heart, it’s called a heart attack, and in our brain, it can manifest as a stroke. So for anyone reading this who is older than ten years old, the choice isn’t whether or not to eat healthfully to prevent heart disease—it’s whether or not you want to reverse the heart disease you likely already have.

Is that even possible? When researchers took people with heart disease and put them on the kind of plant-based diet followed by populations who did not get epidemic heart disease, their hope was that it might slow down the disease process or maybe even stop it. Instead, something miraculous happened. The disease actually started to reverse. It started to get better. As I show in my video below, as soon as patients stopped eating artery-clogging diets, their bodies were able to start dissolving away some of the plaque, opening up arteries without drugs and without surgery. That improvement in blood flow to the heart muscle itself was after only three weeks of eating healthfully.

Let me share with you what’s been called the best-kept secret in medicine: Sometimes, given the right conditions, the body can heal itself. Take, for instance, what happens when you accidentally whack your shin really hard on a coffee table. It gets red, hot, painful, swollen, and inflamed, but it’ll heal naturally if you just stand back and let your body work its magic. What would happen, though, if you kept whacking your shin in the same place, day after day, or three times a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)? It would never heal. You might turn to your doctor, complaining of shin pain, and would probably limp out of the office with a prescription for painkillers. You’d still be whacking your shin three times a day, but the pain would be a little duller, thanks to those pills you’d be popping.

It’s similar to people taking nitroglycerine for crushing chest pain. They may get tremendous relief, but they’re not doing anything to treat the underlying cause. Our body wants to come back to health if we let it, but if we keep re-damaging ourselves three times a day, we may never heal.

One of the most amazing things I learned in all my medical training was that within about 15 years after you stop smoking, your lung cancer risk approaches that of a lifelong nonsmoker. Isn’t that amazing? Your lungs can clear out all that tar, and, eventually, it’s almost as if you never smoked at all. Just think, every morning of your smoking life, your body started on that path to healing, until…wham!…you inhaled on that first cigarette of the day, reinjuring your lungs with every puff. In the same way, we can reinjure our arteries with every bite. But, all we have to do is follow medicine’s best-kept secret and just stand back, get out of the way, stop re-damaging ourselves, and let our body’s natural healing processes bring us back towards health. The human body is a self-healing machine.

Certainly, you could choose moderation and hit yourself with a smaller hammer, but why beat yourself up at all? I don’t tell my smoking patients to cut down to half-a-pack a day. I tell them to quit. Sure, smoking a half pack is better than two packs, but we should try to put only healthy things into our mouths.

We’ve known about this for decades. Take the case of Mr. F.W., for example. Covered in a 1977 issue of American Heart Journal, he had such bad heart disease he couldn’t even make it to the mailbox. But he started eating healthier and a few months later he was climbing mountains without any angina pain.

There are fancy new anti-angina and anti-chest pain drugs out now. They cost thousands of dollars a year, but at the highest dose, they may only be able to prolong exercise duration for as long as 33.5 seconds. It doesn’t seem as though patients choosing the drug route will be climbing mountains anytime soon.

Plant-based diets aren’t just safer and cheaper. They can work better because they let us treat the actual cause of the disease.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations—2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016: How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

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51 comments

Ruth S
Ruth S16 hours ago

Thanks.

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Tracy Marotta
Tracy M2 months ago

go vegan. no one dies from too much fruits and vegetables. people die from cholesterol from consuming dead animals.

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Mike R
Mike R2 months ago

Thanks

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Tania N
Tania N2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Tania N
Tania N2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Leo C
Leo Custer2 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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Marija M
Marija M2 months ago

;) tks

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Mona M
Mona M2 months ago

Thank for your wise article that sustain my conviction that the original print of our body is perfect health and that the intelligence of the body naturally comes back to it if we don't prevent it with wrong and limited beliefs systems.

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Debbi W
Debbi W2 months ago

Cutting back on salt, keeping to 2,000 mg/day or less will reduce your blood pressure and keep you much healthier.

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