HEART HEALTH & THE VE­GAN DIET

Learn the Facts From the Raise Ve­gan RN

Raise Vegan - - Contents - Story by Elaine Shin­ton, RN.

Each year, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease takes the lives of 17.7 mil­lion peo­ple, which ac­counts for 32% of deaths world­wide. The hu­man heart beats about 100,000 times a day, con­tin­u­ously pump­ing about eight pints of blood through­out your body, which is why it is so im­por­tant to main­tain a healthy heart. The best way to en­sure heart health is through a well- bal­anced diet. High choles­terol is an in­di­ca­tor of poor heart health and puts one at higher risk for car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. Choles­terol is a waxy sub­stance that is nat­u­rally made in the liver, how­ever, it is also abun­dant in cer­tain foods like dairy prod­ucts and other an­i­mal prod­ucts like meat and eggs. High choles­terol causes plaque to build up in one's ar­ter­ies, caus­ing them to nar­row, mak­ing it harder to pump blood ef­fec­tively. High choles­terol puts us at risk of heart dis­ease such as angina, which is chest pain caused by re­duced blood flow to the heart mus­cles, or even a heart at­tack, which oc­curs when the blood sup­ply to the heart be­comes blocked. Over the last few years, whole food plant- based di­ets have be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar due to t he re­ported health ben­e­fits, re­duc­ing choles­terol be­ing one of them. Both the Bri­tish Di­etetic As­so­ci­a­tion and the Amer­i­can Academy of Nu­tri­tion and Di­etet­ics ac­knowl­edge that a plant- based or ve­gan diet is not only a suit­able choice, but a healthy choice for ev­ery age and stage of life. The Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Car­di­ol­ogy pub­lished an ar­ti­cle in March 2017 where they re­viewed some of the pop­u­lar di­ets that claimed to pro­mote heart health. The ev­i­dence over­whelm­ingly showed that a ve­gan, whole food diet can not only pre­vent car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease but also halt the pro­gres­sion and re­verse its ef­fects. How­ever, an­other study, pub­lished in the same jour­nal in July 2017 claims that a ve­gan diet does not nec­es­sar­ily lead to bet­ter heart health if the diet is based on un­healthy plant foods. Th­ese un­healthy foods in­clude white rice, pro­cessed foods, breads, french fries, sugar and sugar y bev­er­ages. Es­sen­tially, in or­der to reap the health ben­e­fits of a ve­gan diet, one must avoid pro­cessed, sug­ary foods and fo­cus on whole foods. A re­cent re­view in the jour­nal Progress in Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Dis­ease also fo­cused on the ben­e­fits of a plant­based diet. The re­searchers f rom Wash­ing­ton, D. C. scru­ti­nized sev­eral rel­e­vant stud­ies and the out­come was as­tound­ing. They con­cluded that when fol­low­ing a plant- based diet, coro­nary heart dis­ease was re­duced by 40% in the test sub­jects, for­merly blocked ar­ter­ies be­come un­blocked, ei­ther par­tially or fully, in 91% of pa­tients, and choles­terol and blood pres­sure de­creased in 34% of pa­tients. Their con­clu­sions are not all that sur­pris­ing when one con­sid­ers the health ben­e­fits of plant- based foods. Fruits and veg­eta­bles con­tain pro­tec­tive com­pounds such as an­tiox­i­dants, polyphe­nols, f iber, vi­ta­mins and min­er­als that work to re­duce choles­terol and heart dis­ease. Whole grains con­tain phy­to­chem­i­cals, an­tiox­i­dants, vi­ta­mins, trace min­er­als, fiber and pro­tein, which are great for heart health. Beans and Legumes are high in min­er­als and fiber, which can help im­prove blood choles­terol; and nuts and seeds are full of un­sat­u­rated fats, which help pre­vent heart dis­ease. When one con­sid­ers the ev­i­dence, it is clear that a ve­gan diet - con­sist­ing of plenty of fruits, veg­eta­bles, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds - of­fers the great­est pro­tec­tion against heart dis­ease. ◆

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