CDC Should Prescribe Plant-Based Diet for Middle-Aged Hearts

Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC

plant-based-diet2Middle-aged adults are being especially hard hit by heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So it just launched Million Hearts to help prevent a million heart attacks and strokes by 2022. The initiative encourages people to eat a heart-healthy diet, get physically active, and quit smoking. Good advice. But the CDC’s Million Hearts Initiative should be clear that the heart-healthiest diet is a plant-based diet. The CDC says that about 16 million heart attacks, strokes, and related events could happen by 2022, but that 80% of premature heart disease and strokes are preventable by focusing on what it calls the ABCS of heart health: Aspirin use when appropriate, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and Smoking cessation. Well, research shows that eating more fruits, vegetables, grains and beans, and avoiding meat, dairy products and eggs – which are packed with saturated fat and cholesterol – is the best prescription for blood pressure control and cholesterol management. In fact, my colleagues and I recently published a scientific review in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases that looked at multiple clinical trials and observational studies and found that a plant-based diet: • Reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 40%. • Reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 40%. • Fully or partially opens blocked arteries in up to 91% of patients. • Reduces the risk of hypertension by 34%. • Is associated with 29 mg/dL and 23 mg/dL lower total cholesterol and LDL-C levels, respectively, compared with non-vegetarian diets. Of course, plenty of other research shows similar benefits. So if the CDC wants to help prevent 1 million heart attacks by 2022, a plant-based diet is good medicine. Photo from here, with thanks.