My Plantcentric Journey

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Me, Give Up Meat? Vegan Diets Surging in Popularity US News

While I don’t agree with the cons, I do agree that you must plan to be sure you are getting all the nutrients needed. Laura

The Pros (and a Few Cons) of Choosing a Vegan Diet

by Angela Haupt

Former President Bill Clinton had a legendary appetite: Hamburgers and steaks. Barbeque. Chicken enchiladas. But after having two stents inserted in 2010—on top of quadruple bypass surgery six years earlier—he radically changed his diet in the name of saving his health. Now a vegan, the strictest type of vegetarian, he has cut out meat, dairy, eggs, and most oils in favor of a super-low-fat diet that revolves around whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. It appears to be working: He has said he’s dropped more than 20 pounds and has never been healthier. In a televised interview with film producer Harvey Weinstein in June, Clinton explained that he’d decided he wanted to live to be a grandfather. “So I just went all the way. Getting rid of the dairy was great, getting rid of the meat was—I just don’t miss it.”

Vegan diets have lately been surging in popularity, thanks in part to the example of celebrities who are publicly forswearing all animal products (Michelle Pfeiffer, Carrie Underwood, Russell Brand, and Ozzy Osbourne, to name a few others). Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi have announced plans to open a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles. Vegan-centric books have been flying off the shelf, including Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet and The Engine 2 Diet by Texas firefighter and triathlete Rip Esselstyn, son of retired Cleveland Clinic physician Caldwell Esselstyn, whose research on the merits of plant-based eating inspired Bill Clinton. Vegan food trucks are making the rounds, schools are instituting meat-free days, and colleges are opening vegan dining halls.

While many vegans still take the stand because they believe in animal rights, a growing number are swayed by mounting research showing a profound impact on health. “It’s dramatic,” says Neal Barnard, a nutrition researcher and adjunct professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit group that promotes preventive medicine. “We’ve seen people whose chest pain has gone away within weeks, while their weight melts off, blood pressure goes down, and cholesterol plummets.” Barnard’s 2011 book 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart is a three-week introduction to the case for and how-tos of the vegan life. The panel of 22 experts who analyzed 25 diets forU.S. News’s ratings of the best eating plans overall—as well as the best for weight loss, heart health, and diabetes management and prevention—are not universally sold on absolute meatlessness. But without a doubt, the heavily plant-based plans tend to rise to the top of the U.S. News lists.

Exactly how you shape a vegan meal plan is up to you, but you’ll typically aim for six servings of grains from bread and calcium-fortified cereal, for example; five servings of protein-rich foods such as legumes, nuts, peanut butter, chickpeas, tofu, potatoes, and soy milk; and four servings of veggies, two of fruit, and two of healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil. (Both of the Esselstyns advocate avoiding all oils, too.) There’s no need to give up dessert, although you’ll be baking without butter or eggs.

It should come as no surprise that becoming a serious vegan is apt to help you lose weight. By loading up on fruits, veggies, and whole grains, vegans tend to feel full on fewer calories, and indeed they tend to weigh less and have a lower body mass index than their meat-eating peers. In a 2006 study coauthored by Barnard, 99 people with type 2 diabetes followed either a vegan diet or a standard diet based on American Diabetes Association guidelines. After 22 weeks, the vegans lost an average of 13 pounds, compared to 9 in the ADA group. Both groups’ control of their blood sugar levels also improved.

The cardiac case. A meatless diet’s power against heart disease also is well documented. “It’s an exceptionally healthy diet, especially when it comes to cardiac health,” says Michael Davidson, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He notes that cutting way back on saturated fat and eliminating cholesterol is just part of the equation; also key is piling on “cardiac protective” fruits, vegetables, and grains, packed with antioxidants and other phytochemicals that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. The soluble fiber found in plant protein also helps to lower cholesterol. In the 2006 Diabetes Care report, LDL cholesterol dropped 21.2 percent in the vegan group after 22 weeks, compared with 10.7 percent in the group following the meat-allowing guidelines. Triglycerides fell from 140.3 mg/dL to 118.2. In an earlier 12-year study that compared 6,000 vegetarians and vegans with 5,000 meat-eaters, researchers found that vegans had a 57 percent lower risk of ischemic heart disease—reduced heart pumping due to coronary artery disease, which often leads to heart failure—than the meat-eaters. Vegetarians had a 24 percent lower risk.

Read the rest at:  http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/07/24/me-give-up-meat-vegan-diets-surging-in-popularity?page=2

Top 10 Myths About Cardiovascular Disease American Heart Association

Top 10 Myths About Cardiovascular Disease

How much do you really know about your heart’s health? It’s easy to be fooled by misconceptions. After all, heart disease only happens to your elderly neighbor or to your fried food-loving uncle, right? Or do you know the real truth – that heart disease can affect people of any age, even those who eat right?

Relying on false assumptions can be dangerous to your heart. Cardiovascular disease kills more Americans each year than any other disease. But you can boost your heart smarts by separating fact from fiction. Let’s set the record straight on some common myths.

  1. “I’m too young to worry about heart disease.” How you live now affects your risk for cardiovascular diseases later in life. As early as childhood and adolescence, plaque can start accumulating in the arteries and later lead to clogged arteries. One in three Americans has cardiovascular disease, but not all of them are senior citizens. Even young and middle-aged people can develop heart problems – especially now that obesity, type 2 diabetes and other risk factors are becoming more common at a younger age.
  2. “I’d know if I had high blood pressure because there would be warning signs.” High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because you don’t usually know you have it. You may never experience symptoms, so don’t wait for your body to alert you that there’s a problem. The  way to know if you have high blood pressure is to check your numbers with a simple blood pressure test. Early treatment of high blood pressure is critical because, if left untreated, it can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney damage and other serious health problems. Learn how high blood pressure is diagnosed.
  3.  “I’ll know when I’m having a heart attack because I’ll have chest pain.” Not necessarily. Although it’s common to have chest pain or discomfort, a heart attack may cause subtle symptoms. These include shortness of breath, nausea, feeling lightheaded, and pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the jaw, neck or back. Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. Learn you risk of heart attacktoday!
  4. “Diabetes won’t threaten my heart as long as I take my medication.” Treating diabetes can help reduce your risk for or delay the development of cardiovascular diseases. But even when blood sugar levels are under control, you’re still at increased risk for heart disease and stroke. That’s because the risk factors that contribute to diabetes onset also make you more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Theseoverlapping risk factors include high blood pressure, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity and smoking.
  5. “Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do to prevent it.” Although people with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, you can take steps to dramatically reduce your risk. Create anaction plan to keep your heart healthy by tackling these to-dos: get active; control cholesterol; eat better; manage blood pressure; maintain a healthy weight; control blood sugar; and stop smoking.
  6. “I don’t need to have my cholesterol checked until I’m middle-aged.” The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20. It’s a good idea to start having a cholesterol test even earlier if your family has a history of heart disease. Children in these families can have high cholesterol levels, putting them at increased risk for developing heart disease as adults. You can help yourself and your family by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
  7. “Heart failure means the heart stops beating.” The heart suddenly stops beating during cardiac arrest, not heart failure. With heart failure, the heart keeps working, but it doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It can cause shortness of breath, swelling in the feet and ankles or persistent coughing and wheezing. During cardiac arrest, a person loses consciousness and stops normal breathing.
  8. “This pain in my legs must be a sign of aging. I’m sure it has nothing to do with my heart.” Leg pain felt in the muscles could be a sign of a condition called peripheral artery disease. PAD results from blocked arteries in the legs caused by plaque buildup. The risk for heart attack or stroke increases five-fold for people with PAD.
  9. “My heart is beating really fast. I must be having a heart attack.” Some variation in your heart rate is normal. Your heart rate speeds up during exercise or when you get excited, and slows down when you’re sleeping. Most of the time, a change in your heartbeat is nothing to worry about. But sometimes, it can be a sign of arrhythmia, an abnormal or irregular heartbeat. Most arrhythmias are harmless, but some can last long enough to impact how well the heart works and require treatment.
  10. “I should avoid exercise after having a heart attack.” No! As soon as possible, get moving with a plan approved for you! Research shows that heart attack survivors who are regularly physically active and make other heart-healthy changes live longer than those who don’t. People with chronic conditions typically find that moderate-intensity activity is safe and beneficial. The American Heart Association recommends at least two and a half hours of moderate intensity physical activity each week. Find the help you need by joining a cardiac rehabilitation program, or consult your healthcare provider for advice on developing a physical activity plan tailored to your needs.

Learn more:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Top-10-Myths-about-Cardiovascular-Disease_UCM_430164_Article.jsp

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