There are many effective ways to support a healthy heart through simple dietary and lifestyle choices. Learn about the link between inflammation and plant-based nutrition from one of the doctors who former President Bill Clinton credits with regaining his health this past year. Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. is an internationally known former surgeon, researcher and clinician at the Cleveland Clinic, and author of the book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s clinical research and book on preventing heart disease is centered around smart eating for a healthy heart:
- Protection against heart disease through plant-based nutrition has been the foundation of his research and clinical practice strategy for over 25 years.
- He has consistently found in patients severely ill with advanced coronary artery disease that the results of using plant-based nutrition are prompt, powerful and enduring.
- The foundation of this plant-based diet includes a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, while avoiding animal products and processed oils.
- Additionally, he adds 1000 I.U. of Vitamin D3 and 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 daily to ensure adequacy of these nutrients.
Chronic inflammation has been shown to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease:
- Coronary artery disease develops from progressive injury to the delicate inner lining of our blood vessels known as the endothelial cells. When healthy, these cells produce copious amounts of nitric oxide.
- Nitric oxide protects our blood vessels by: maintaining a smooth blood flow to prevent cellular elements from becoming sticky; providing more blood to muscle and other body systems requiring it; inhibiting the development of inflammation in the vessel wall; and preventing the formation of vessel blockages or plaque.
- The western diet of processed oils, dairy, meat, fish and poultry progressively destroys our endothelial cells’ capacity to produce nitric oxide, thus leading to a loss of vascular protection.
- Without nitric oxide, a sticky LDL cholesterol molecule enters beneath the endothelial lining initiating an inflammatory cascade of events culminating in plaque formation and blockage with occasional plaque rupture causing a heart attack.
Dietary and lifestyle choices help support a healthy heart:
- Consume a plant-based diet and avoid processed oils, dairy, animal, fish and poultry products.
- Choose rolled oats for breakfast that are filled with polyphenolic compounds and also copious amounts of green leafy vegetables, which can help restore endothelial function.
- Exercise is important to incorporate, such as regular walking, biking, swimming, running and resistance training.
- Whether it is with family or friends, find the joy of interpersonal relationships.