High Cholesterol? Look to Your Plate, Not to the Prescription Pad

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and elevated cholesterol is a significant risk factor. Do you or someone you love have high cholesterol? You are not alone. It is estimated that half of all adults in the United States have high total cholesterol and more than 25 percent have high LDL or "bad" cholesterol. Your cholesterol level is only one of many risk factors for heart disease.

If you are concerned about cardiovascular disease, here’s what should be drawing your attention:

  • Achieving a normal body fat percentage
  • Achieving a normal blood pressure without the use of medication
  • Achieving a normal blood glucose, without needing medication
  • Achieving a favorable cholesterol level without medication
  • Engage in aerobic exercise and strength training

The most dramatic protection from heart disease involves maintaining a normal weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure with your diet, so you do not require medications. Medications cannot compare.

Your First Course of Action

The INTERHEART study, which examined factors associated with heart attack risk in 52 countries, found that nine mostly modifiable risk factors accounted for 90 percent of heart attack risk: high cholesterol, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, psychosocial factors (e.g. stress, depression), fruit intake, vegetable intake, alcohol consumption, and exercise.

 Similarly, a long-term study on men estimated that 79 percent of heart attacks could be prevented by following five healthy behaviors: a healthful diet, low alcohol consumption, not smoking, regular exercise, and a waist circumference smaller than 95 cm (37.5 inches). Since most of heart disease risk is diet and lifestyle related, addressing  the patient’s diet and lifestyle – the cause of the heart disease – is the primary means for stopping the progression of the disease.

 In my medical practice, I have coached thousands of patients to successfully lower their cholesterol through a nutritarian diet.

Statin drugs produce a modest reduction in the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people who have not had a previous cardiovascular event (approximately 25 percent, although some researchers have suggested that this may be an overestimation). However, my recommendations to fuel your body with high nutrient foods, rich in antioxidants, has resulted in resolution of all the modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, not only cholesterol levels. People drop their blood pressure, lower their blood glucose, lower their weight, and improve their exercise tolerance.

Dramatic Change Occurs With Diet, Not Prescription Drugs

In a 2001 study published in Metabolisma high-fiber, high nutrient diet focusing on vegetables, fruit, and nuts was found to reduce cholesterol by 33 percent in just two weeks. A 2015 study surveying participants who followed my nutritarian diet was published in The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, documenting an average 42 mg/dl decrease in LDL cholesterol in those who adhered at least 80 percent to that diet.

In addition, those who started out obese averaged a sustained weight loss of 50 pounds that was maintained for the entire 3-year period. Those who started with hypertension reduced their systolic blood pressure by an average of 26 mm Hg. Case studies accompanied this data and documenting reversal of atherosclerosis and resolution of heart problems. Similar diet and lifestyle changes have been shown to cause regression of atherosclerotic heart disease as well. Living healthfully produces such dramatic changes because it doesn’t address just one risk factor; it makes your entire body healthier. It is for those who want real protection, without the side effects of drugs. 

Sources

Fuhrman J, Singer M. Improved Cardiovascular Parameter With a Nutrient-Dense, Plant-Rich Diet-Style: A Patient Survey With Illustrative Cases. Am J Lifestyle Med 2015.

Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics--2014 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation 2014, 129:e28-e292.

Ornish D, Brown SE, Scherwitz LW, et al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. Lancet 1990, 336:129-133.

Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA 1998, 280:2001-2007.

Yusuf S, Hawken S, Ounpuu S, et al. Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. Lancet 2004, 364:937-952.

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