Health Topics Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is used to describe all conditions that affect the heart and vessels in the body. When the vessels of the heart are blocked, it leads to heart attacks and for the brain, it leads to stroke. It can also happen in the legs and is known as peripheral vascular disease, which often results in gangrene, infection and sometimes, amputation. When it happens in the abdomen, the result is abdominal aortic aneurysms which can rupture and are often fatal.
With a heart attack, stroke or ruptured aneurysm, those are only the symptoms of what’s really going on inside the heart and vessels. The cause is chronic inflammation. It sets off a destructive and deadly process that starts with the inner lining of the vessels called the endothelium. When you eat inflammatory, toxic foods like processed white flour, processed sugar, animal fat or animal protein (like dairy or eggs), the inflammatory process causes the inner lining of the arteries to get stiff, irritated and sticky. This is the perfect environment for cholesterol and blood cells to form plaque and block blood flow. The inflammation also causes cholesterol and fat in the blood to oxidize, adding to the destruction and stickiness of the vessels. The good news is the inflammation usually dies down after 6 hours or so. The bad news is that then it’s lunchtime, and the whole process starts all over again!
Stopping inflammation and reversing the damage to the heart and vessels requires adopting a whole food, plant-based diet. This means drastically reducing or eliminating those inflammation-triggering foods such as processed snack foods, processed sugar and white flour, processed oils, and animal fat and animal protein. Those destructive foods are then replaced with the anti-inflammatory and healing phytonutrients that make up the whole plant-based diet.
Although all whole plant foods have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, there are certain phytonutrients that are specifically vital in reversing and preventing cardiovascular disease:
Pomegranates. Pomegranates and their juice contain a host of phytochemicals including anthocyanins and polyphenol that block the inflammation in the arteries and reverse atherosclerotic plaques. They also naturally lower blood pressure, and reduce the platelet clumping and blood clotting process that leads to heart attacks and strokes.
Leafy, green vegetables.These remarkable vegetables are high in nitrates which relax the blood vessels (lowering blood pressure) and increase blood flow in the arteries of the heart. Studies have repeatedly shown improvement of angina (the heart pains due to decreased blood flow) once patients are placed on plant-based diets high in green leafy vegetables.
Cruciferous vegetables. These are veggies such as kale, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, radishes, watercress, and bok choy. Cruciferous vegetables are the most nutrient-dense of all foods. They have a sulfur containing compound which gives them their characteristic bitter taste, and when blended, juiced, or chopped, these sulfur containing compounds are converted into Isothiocyanates – or ITCs. These ITCs prevent atherosclerotic plaques from depositing inside blood vessels, protect the sensitive lining of the vessels (the endothelium) from inflammation, oxidative stress, and free radicals.
Flaxseed. Ground flaxseed has an incredible effect on lowering blood pressure, as well as reducing inflammation in the vessels and lowering and preventing the oxidation of bad cholesterol. Flaxseeds are also were shown to cause the regression of atherosclerotic plaques, thereby lowering the risk of strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and heart attacks.
Beets. Beets are nitrate rich, which means they dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow to your vital organs, especially the heart. They also significantly lower blood pressure.
Morning pomegranate smoothie
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
- 2 cups frozen mixed berries
- 1 frozen banana
- 3 dates (pitted)
- a handful of spinach
- 2 tablespoons finely ground flaxseeds
Put in a nutrabullet, vitamix, or whatever blender is available and drink up!
- 4 ounces beet juice
- 4 ounces kale juice
- 4 ounces spinach juice
- 1 apple
- 3 celery stalks
- 1/2 inch ginger root
Prepare using a cold press (or masticating juicer) and drink daily. You can substitute other green leafy vegetables as you like.
Daily leafy green salad:
- Combine your choice of spinach, arugula, or kale, with sugar snap peas, red bell pepper, tomato, broccoli, or your vegetables of choice. Season to taste, and dress with a splash of balsamic vinegar and lemon.
Summing It Up
*A whole food plant-based diet has repeatedly been shown to prevent and reverse cardiovascular disease. In addition to eating those anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, it is vital that toxic, inflammatory foods such as processed oils, processed white flour and sugar, and animal fat including dairy and eggs, are severely reduced or eliminated.
*Be sure to consume those phytonutrients that have specific healing effects on the cardiovascular system everyday: beets, leafy green veggies, pomegranates, and flaxseed.
*Exercise and meditation are vital to any plan to achieve health. They decrease inflammation, lower bad stress hormone levels, and overall make you look and feel great!