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Reversing Heart Disease
By Hans Diehl, DrHSc, MPH and Aileen Ludington, MD


Fruits in the shape of a heart            
The sports world rejoiced when former Yale president, Bart Giamotti, became commissioner of baseball. A few months later a shocked nation wept when this respected man died suddenly at age 51 attacked by his heart.
             Scenarios like this one are repeated thousands of times each day across North America. Heart disease now strikes a deadly blow to four out of every 10 Americans.

Is there no way out? Does it have to be like this?
Yes ... and no.

             As long as Americans continue to eat their rich, fatty diet, the statistics will remain the same. We've known for years that a diet high in fat and cholesterol is the primary and essential cause of coro­nary heart disease. 
             But there is a way out: it requires that we lean out our high-fat diet. To the extent that we commit to do this, we can help prevent and even reverse heart disease.

Are you saying that heart disease may be curable?

              It looks more and more that way.
      The idea took on a life of its own when a young cardiologist, Dr. Dean Ornish, published a report in the Lancet medical journal, in 1990, that shook up the medical community. Dr. Ornish spent one year studying 50 men with advanced heart disease, many of whom were candidates for coronary bypass surgery.
              He randomly assigned the men to two groups. Both groups were asked to quit smoking and to walk daily. In addition, the first group prac­ticed stress management and followed a strict vegetarian diet with less than 10 percent of calories as fat and with virtu­ally no choles­terol.
              The sec­ond group was given the standard American Heart Association's "Prudent Diet" for heart disease. This diet allowed 30 percent of calo­ries as fat and up to 300 mil­ligrams of cholesterol a day. At the end of the year, when the results were presented at the Scientific Session of the American Heart Association in the Washington, D.C., they became front­ page news all over America.
              Dr. Ornish reported that those on very-low-fat vegetarian diet not only dropped their dangerous LDL-cholesterol levels by 37 percent, but percent of their narrowed, plaque-filled arteries had actually widened, allow more blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. The heart disease had, in fact begun to reverse itself. And the old men with the most advanced disease actually had the best results.
             The group on the so-called Prudent Diet, however, had virtually no cholesterol drop, and most of their coronary arteries showed increased narrowing. In general, their heart disease had actually gotten worse.

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