Plant-Based Equals Heart-Healthy
March is National Nutrition Month. Some of the primary medical problems today are atherosclerosis also known as heart disease, plaque build-up and hardening of the arteries. This plaque leads to strokes, amputations, kidney failure, impotence, dementia, heart attacks and death. The overall toll to our nation’s health is immense, and no one is immune to these issues. The majority of those patients are obese and also have hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and elevated cholesterol, and many spend the last years of their lives dealing with the consequences of these chronic diseases. They are in and out of the hospital. They are on eight to 15 medications and they are all broke or bankrupt due to the costs of their healthcare (or sick care). They definitely aren’t spending their golden years focusing on family and traveling and enjoying life. Rather than living, they are busy dying.
These are diseases are largely a result of lifestyle choices, and poor diet and nutrition in particular. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is killing us. It is a diet high in meat and processed meat products; high in cholesterol, trans fats and saturated fats; and high in salt, oil and sugar. It is also loaded with processed foods. It is a calorie-rich and nutrient/fiber-poor diet. This SAD diet leads to obesity, atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol and triglycerides. It also leads to many cancers and many autoimmune disorders.
It is an inflammatory diet that our bodies are trying to fight over the course of decades, but eventually our bodies lose the battle. The incidence of diabetes has tripled in the last 30 years and 74 percent of Americans are now overweight, up from 66 percent just four years ago. The really “sad” part about it is that most Americans know deep down inside that they are eating an unhealthy diet that leads to chronic disease, but denial is strong. It also doesn’t help that the negative effects of the SAD diet often don’t manifest for years or decades. That makes it hard for people to see the connection.
There is a better way: Science and evidence-based medicine have shown us that a plant-centric approach to nutrition can prevent, and many times reverse, these chronic diseases. A whole food, plant-based diet is low in calories while extremely nutrient-rich. It is full of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber; all lacking in the SAD diet. This diet includes fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains, combined with a conscious effort to limit meat, salt, oil and sugar intake, as well as eliminating processed foods that leads to marked reductions in chronic diseases.
This type of approach to nutrition is seen in the areas of the world where people live the longest and the healthiest, known as the Blue Zones. The World Health Organization recommends a plant-based diet as the healthiest diet we can choose. The American College of Cardiology states that a plant-centric diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, and both the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association recommend plant-centric diets.
Rizwan H. Bukhari, M.D., FACS, is the founder of Plant-Based DFW. He opened North Texas Vascular Center to provide the highest-quality vascular care in a kind, compassionate, caring environment for patients and for staff. For more information, visit plantbaseddfw.com.