COVID-19 is no match for the death toll caused by cardiovascular disease (CVD) each year yet there isn’t daily coverage and demand to fix the problem like there was/is for COVID-19. Why is that? Why didn’t I know that CVD is preventable and in my control? COVID-19 just passed the one year mark this weekend in the U.S. from the first reported death. In one year, COVID-19 was attributed to 510,777 deaths. That pales in comparison to the 650,000+ deaths in the U.S. annually attributed to CVD. Why isn’t there an outrage and demand to fix this like the time and energy put into COVID-19? Here I’ll share my thoughts on this, heart disease facts, conflicts of interest, and actions we can do to prevent, stop and even reverse CVD.
What is CVD?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines CVD as a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels. We most commonly hear these described as heart attacks.
Annual deaths attributed to CVD
- World-wide – An estimated 17.9 million (2016). An analogy shared in the film, What the Health, was mind numbing – ‘The amount of people who die from cardiovascular disease is the equivalent of four jumbo jets crashing every single hour, every single day, every single year.’
- In the U.S. – 659,041 deaths in 2019 as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Interesting and sad – 8 of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. are driven by nutrition and life-style choices with accidents and suicide being the other two. How can the death toll be this crazy high and it’s not all over the news?!?!
What causes CVD?
WHO states, ‘Heart attacks and strokes are usually acute events and are mainly caused by a blockage that prevents blood from flowing to the heart or brain. The most common reason for this is a build-up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the blood vessels that supply the heart or brain.’ These fatty deposits come from consuming animal foods. They go on to mention, ‘The cause of heart attacks and strokes are usually the presence of a combination of risk factors, such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol, hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidaemia.’
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a pioneering cardiologist in the U.S. who has conducted vast amounts of research in this space does a great job explaining how the damage occurs and where it comes from in this short video. When consuming food from an animal including meat, dairy, egg, and fish along with processed foods and drinks loaded with salt, oil and sugars we do a great amount of harm. Dr. Esselstyn states for people who have been consuming these over decades that they, ‘have now so sufficiently trashed, injured and compromised their endothelial system into a train wreck, they no longer have enough nitric oxide to protect themselves from making blockages and plaque.’ The blockages and plaque restrict and/or stop the blood flow…bad news.
Dr. Michael Greger in his talk, Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, also noted how fast damage occurs when consuming animal products saying, ‘a single meal high in animal fat can paralyze our arteries cutting their ability to relax normally in half within hours of eating animal products. The whole lining of our vascular tree gets inflamed and stiffened. Just as that inflammation finally calm down after 5-6 hours….it’s lunch time. Then we may whack our arteries with another level of meat, eggs or dairy. So most people are in this chronic state of low grade inflammation increasing risks of these inflammation related diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes – one meal at a time.’
What about stopping and reversing? There are countless studies showing this…wow! Dr. Esselstyn was a trailblazer here. I recommend doing your own research and Dr. Esselstyn is a great resource. You can find endless videos where he has spoken to this and his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, is fantastic! Dr. Esselstyn shares this comment in the video I shared above about stopping and reversing CVD, ‘The good news here is this. This is not a malignancy and once you get patients to stop, ever again, passing any morsel through their lips that is going to further destroy an already train wrecked endothelium, then rapidly the endothelial system recovers, makes enough nitric oxide, so not only can you halt the disease but often, we’ll see significant elements of disease reversal.’ Get that blockage and plaque to go away…yay!!!
He states you can make yourself heart attack proof by eliminating animal and processed foods loaded with salt, oil and sugars.
Does this happen everywhere? Why is the U.S. so unhealthy?
I like the context shared here by Dr. Esselstyn, ‘It is increasingly a shameful national embarrassment for the United States to have constructed a billion-dollar cardiac healthcare industry surrounding an illness that does not even exist in more than half of the planet. If you, as a cardiologist or a cardiac surgeon, decided to hang your shingle in Okinawa, the Papua Highlands of New Guinea, rural China, Central Africa, or with the Tarahumara Indians of Northern Mexico, you better plan on a different profession because these countries do not have cardiovascular disease. The common thread is that they all thrive on whole food, plant-based nutrition (WFPBN) with minimal intake of animal products.’
I continue to read how many places in world who were once healthy as described in these examples by Dr. Esselstyn are now becoming unhealthy as they are incorporating the way the U.S. eats. It’s not your genetics or where you live but what you put in your mouth that dictates your health. Control what you can control …. a hard lesson I learned after 45+ years of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD). My body was SAD for sure. My cholesterol, blood pressure and all my other blood counts have gone from out-of-whack to very healthy standards. A 327 cholesterol to 132 without a statin. I’m really healthy and feel great now at the age of 52.
Why isn’t there an outrage?
That is a great question. For me I was unaware of the degree of damage these foods caused. I was brought up thinking I needed milk and meat for strong bones and protein when on the contrary they make our bones weaker, animal protein promotes cancer and the saturated fats they are both filled with make CVD the number one leading cause of death.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed a lawsuit ‘that argued that more than half of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) members had financial ties to the meat, dairy, or egg industries. The following year, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the USDA violated federal law by hiding conflicts of interest in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.’
It’s not possible to have objective outcomes when committee members have a conflict of interest as they have to promote U.S. Agriculture and provide dietary guidelines…they are at odds. Canada is a great example where their committee simply focuses on health aspects of the country and are not influenced by industry and as a result their dietary guidelines look much different than the U.S.
Most things in the world seem to come down to money and that seems to be the case here. Industry influences as much as they can to keep the machine going. Dr. Esselstyn has also stated our medical system is set up to treat the immediate problem but not the causation. It’s a miss in our system that nutrition is not part of any medical school’s curriculum as well.
The typical path tends to go something like this and I was on this path:
- Eat the Standard American Diet (SAD)
- Try diet after diet (Yo-Yo effect) to lose weight
- Take drugs to treat all types of ailments from SAD and continue to take them to death as you do not get well (not treating causation)
- Live with 17 years of Poor Health and 9.4 years of Debility (in the U.S.)
- How do you want to spend your latter years? 9.4 years of debility? I want to be active till death feeling great!
Take Control of Your Health
I was curious after recently re-watching the film, What the Health, if the American Heart Association (AMA) made any changes to the page devoted to healthy recipes. It’s so sad you would think it’s a cruel joke or you are on a fake web page but they had four featured recipes on their Healthy Eating page and three of the four promote heart disease. After taking a closer look as I didn’t want to make any assumptions with what looked to be the one healthy option I realized even the Black Bean Soup was a fail as it included cooking spray (oil) and chicken broth. Wow….four of the four featured recipes on the AMA site promote heart disease. The other three meals included Kid Friendly Chicken Enchiladas, Slow Cooked Pot Roast, and Pan Fried Pork Chops. It seems they rotate these recipes often but not to worry they have several recipes filled with animal products…wow!
As I learned after losing my mom and dad early in life to chronic illnesses I had to take control over my health and not assume my country or doctors would advise in my best interest. I consult with doctors now and find ones that I can align with…never taking anything for face value. Question everything…
I leave you with this from Dr. Dean Ornish and his incredible book, UnDo It! — Eat well, Move more, Stress less, and Love More.
– Add Health to Your Life
Featured Blog Photo
- Upper Left – my heart health was bad in this picture; peak of 327 cholesterol, overweight (65 pounds), felt like crap and primed for a heart attack…thankfully I got educated and made life changing choices in time.
- Bottom Left – 10 years older (51 years old) than the first picture and so healthy – 132 cholesterol, proper weight and feel great!
- Upper Right – Living life with Lauren (heart healthy)
- Bottom Right – Bacon draped over beer can chicken I used to grill on the smoker…led to the upper left photo and poor health
Some startling information regarding industry, money and conflicts of interest via What the Health’s website shared here. Go to the link for all the references:
- AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY, AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION AND AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION ACCEPTING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FROM PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES
- IN THE U.S, TREATING CHRONIC DISEASE IS A $1.5 TRILLION INDUSTRY
- $1.5 TRILLION IS THE GDP EQUIVALENT OF THE TENTH RICHEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD
- THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY SPENDS MORE MONEY ON LOBBYING THAN ANY OTHER SINGLE INDUSTRY
- USDA DIETARY COMMITTEE MEMBERS HAVE RECEIVED MONEY FROM ANIMAL PRODUCTS, SUGAR AND ALCOHOL INDUSTRIES
- THE DAIRY CHECKOFF PROGRAM GIVES MONEY TO MARKET CHEESE HEAVY PRODUCTS (EXAMPLE: $12 MILLION TO DOMINO’S)
- My tax dollars go to the government giving money to Dominos and other restaurants to promote dairy? To get people sick? That is sick…
- MEAT AND DAIRY SPEND AT LEAST $138 MILLION LOBBYING CONGRESS
- WE HAVE A $5 BILLION STENT INDUSTRY
- WE HAVE A $35 BILLION STATIN DRUG INDUSTRY
- BY GETTING RID OF HEART DISEASE, THE UNITED STATES WOULD SAVE $48 TRILLION, 3x THE GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT
- THERE ARE NO STUDIES SHOWING THAT EATING EGGS AND MEAT IN MODERATION CAN TURN YOUR HEART DISEASE AROUND AND GET BETTER
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