Valentine’s Day falls in the month of February – a day we think of love and friendship which is symbolized by a heart. Keeping our heart healthy should be our number one priority.
The most likely reason most of our loved ones will die is heart disease. It’s still up to each of us to make our own decisions as to what to eat and how to live—but, we should make these choices consciously, educating ourselves about the predictable consequences of our actions.
Atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, begins in childhood.
By age ten, the arteries of nearly all kids raised on the Standard American Diet already have fatty streaks—the first stage of the disease.
Then, the plaques start forming in our twenties, get worse in our thirties, and then can start killing us off. In our heart, it’s called a heart attack. In our brain, it can manifest as a stroke.
So, if there is anyone reading this older than age ten, then the choice isn’t whether or not to eat healthy to prevent heart disease; it’s whether or not you want to reverse the heart disease you likely already have.
Is that even possible? When researchers took people with heart disease, and put them on the kind of plant-based diet followed by populations that did not get epidemic heart disease, their hope was that it might slow the disease process down—maybe even stop it. But, instead, something miraculous happened.
The disease started to reverse; to get better. As soon as patients stopped eating artery-clogging diets, their bodies were able to start dissolving some of the plaque away, opening up arteries without drugs, without surgery—suggesting their bodies wanted to heal all along, but were just never given the chance. That improvement in blood flow to the heart muscle itself (on the left as shown in the video link below) was after just three weeks eating healthy.
Let me share with you what’s been called the best-kept secret in medicine. The best-kept secret in medicine is that sometimes, given the right conditions, the body can heal itself.
You know, if you whack your shin really hard on a coffee table, it can get all red, hot, painful, swollen, inflamed—but, will heal naturally, if you just stand back and let your body work its magic. But, what if you kept whacking your shin in the same place, day after day—in fact, three times a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). It’d never heal!
You’d go to your doctor, and be like, “Oh, my shin hurts,” and the doctor would be like, “No problem,” whip out their pad, write you a prescription for painkillers. You’re still whacking your shin three times a day. Oh, it still really hurts like heck, but oh, feels so much better with those pain pills on board. Thank heavens for modern medicine.
It’s like when people take nitroglycerine for crushing chest pain—tremendous relief, but you’re not doing anything to treat the underlying cause.
Our body wants to come back to health, if we let it. But, if we keep redamaging ourselves three times a day, we may never heal.
One of the most amazing things I learned in all my medical training was that within about 15 years of stopping smoking, your lung cancer risk approaches that of a lifelong nonsmoker. Isn’t that amazing? Your lungs can clear out all that tar, and eventually, it’s almost as if you never started smoking at all.
And, every morning of our smoking life, that healing process started, until… wham!…our first cigarette of the day, reinjuring our lungs with every puff—just like we can reinjure our arteries with every bite, when all we had to do all along, the miracle cure, is just stand back, get out of the way, stop redamaging ourselves, and let our bodies’ natural healing processes bring us back towards health. The human body is a self-healing machine.
Sure, you could choose moderation—hit yourself with a smaller hammer. But, why beat yourself up at all?
I don’t tell my smoking patients to cut down to half a pack a day. I tell them to quit. Sure, a half pack is better than two packs a day—but, we should try to only put healthy things in our mouths.
We’ve known about this for decades: American Heart Journal, 1977. Cases like Mr. F.W. here; heart disease so bad, he couldn’t even make it to the mailbox—but, started eating healthier, and, a few months later, he was climbing mountains. No pain.
There are all these fancy, new, anti-angina, anti-chest pain drugs out now. They cost thousands of dollars a year. But, at the highest dose, may be able to prolong exercise duration—as long as 33 and a half seconds. It does not look like those choosing the drug route will be climbing mountains anytime soon.
See, plant-based diets aren’t just safer and cheaper. They can work better, because you’re treating the actual cause of the disease.
Healthy eating with a plant-based diet can help you be around your loved ones longer.
Dr. Greger is a graduate of Cornell University School of Agriculture and Tufts University School of Medicine. He is also the founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. He is a physician, author and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety and public health issues. He has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, testified before Congress, appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” and “The Colbert Report,” and was an expert witness in the defense of Oprah Winfrey in the “meat defamation” trial. He is the author of the international bestseller “How Not To Die.” Currently, Dr. Greger serves on the advisory board for The Only Vegan At The Table and the North Texas Community Health Initiative. He is also the founder of NutritionFacts.org, a nutrition information website with hundreds of videos available for free. “Mondays With Michael” is a weekly column featuring the latest in science-based nutrition information.