Let that sink in for a minute.
About 49% of all Americans have at least one of the following risk factors for heart disease
- high blood pressure
- high LDL cholesterol
- or they smoke.
One half of all Americans is a very big number.
How many people do you know that have one of these risk factors? Or two?
Probably more than you care to admit, especially when you add in additional risk factors that can also play a part.
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Now how many people do you know?
Of course just because you are at risk doesn't mean you're going to have a heart attack.
But it's kind of like playing russian roulette isn't it? You'll never know when that one bullet lines up - and then it's too late.
Heart Disease is #1
You probably knew this already but Heart Disease is the #1 killer in America and over 600,000 people die from it every year.
As a Medical First Responder I can tell you that we are heavily trained in the use of AEDs and CPR. And AED is an Automated External Defibrillator. It's sole purpose is to shock your heart and get it going again if you have a heart attack and your heart stops.
Sure we cover other things like bandaging, mouth to mouth, splints, etc, but CPR is most of our training. And it's no wonder considering how many people are at risk.
There are over 720,000 heart attacks each year and of these, over 500,000 are a first time attack. For many of these people, do you know what their very first symptom will be?
The Good News
I know, sounds all doom and gloom - but there is good news in all this.
Did you notice anything about the risk factors?
Blood pressure, cholesterol, poor diet, obesity, diabetes. They're all related to the same thing.
The food we eat!
And we can definitely do something about that can't we? We can change our diet!
Last night I was at the grocery store and while waiting at the checkout line I was cart spying. You know, occasionally glancing into the person's cart behind you. No judging!
Anyway onto the conveyor belt came the soda pop, and the chips, and the cheese dip, and the canned spam, and the canned chile, and the pre-cooked sausage patties, and the frozen pizzas…..
Seriously - not one vegetable. Not even in a can!
Do you think they'll be at risk for a heart attack?
They'll be at risk for something if they continue to eat stuff like that.
Canned chili? Spam? Really?
Lowering the Risk
Ask any doctor, or the CDC, or the World Health Organization, or even the American Heart Association and they all say the exact same thing.
To lower our risk of heart disease, all we need to do is this:
- Stop smoking
- Exercise daily
- Eat a healthy diet
And they all pretty much have the exact same dietary recommendations too.
- Reduce salt, sugar, and fat (processed foods)
- Reduce our intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol (meat & dairy)
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains
Sure sounds like they're recommending a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet to me.
Here's the latest recommendation from Kaiser Permemente - the largest HMO in the country
Excerpts from the Spring 2013 Kaiser Permanente Journal:
“Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity)
I know a lot of people will ignore this advice and continue eating the same unhealthy foods that they love so much. They love their canned spam and chili, and beer brats, and whatever...
But people can ignore the truth all they want, more and more medical resources are getting on board. They're finally realizing that FOOD DOES MATTER.
The simple fact is - we can't continue eating the way we have been and stay healthy. We just can't.
We have to change, and all the experts are pointing in the same direction. A plant-based diet.
Eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains - your heart will thank you.
Image Source: Flickr/Eric Schmuttenmaer