In June, before our visit to Idaho, my mom had shared her reoccurring chest pain radiating on her right side, down her arm and into her back. Frequent bouts of this pain had been plaguing her for over 2 weeks, lasting for 20 minutes or so, coming and going, causing her to lose sleep, and have a loss of appetite. I could sense the fatigue and frustration in her voice.
I pleaded. “Mom, please make an appointment with your general physician, and see what is going on…”
She acted sooner versus later, and after an echocardiogram, nuclear stress test, and a coronary angiogram, the results would require much more attention than initially thought. Two of her main arteries going to her heart were 90% blocked, and another artery also had extensive blockage. The evident pain and shortness of breath, fatigue, and lack of appetite were taking her down the path towards an eventual heart attack or stroke!
Fact: More women die of heart disease than all cancers combined.
Studies have shown that ninety percent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke (my mom smoked for over 50 years (she quit 3 years ago), and had developed an unhealthy eating regime)! Eighty percent or more of heart disease and stroke occurrences can be prevented through lifestyle changes and education. In Mom’s case, stents or bypass surgery were too risky, so they opted to regulate medication and really hone in on changing her eating habits. My words of encouragement were embraced to start this practice of eating to fuel and bring her body back to a functioning balance to live a healthier lifestyle.
Per her doctor, a recommended food choice: The Mediterranean diet was offered as a guideline where you consume lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds and olive oil.
This is a good start. Ideally, eating a whole food plant-based diet is the best. This process can take time, and I am certainly not there yet, but this is a goal that I want to achieve. But the good news is that the world’s leading killer is in fact preventable and even reversible. Just as lifestyle factors cause it to develop, they can also cause it to recede. You can dramatically lower your cholesterol and blood pressure simply by changing what you eat.
Baby steps. Going cold turkey to plant based is a scary start for sure. Ideally, we need to reduce our dairy and meat intake, and take on a majority if not whole, plant-based diet. Totally giving up meat in the red and white form may not be for you and that’s OK. But by reducing your overall intake, and not buying and cooking from a box (processed yucky stuff), and bringing more plant-based foods to your table, you should reduce your risk of heart disease for yourself and your family. I recommend starting with one day a week, then every other day for a week and so on until you are comfortably eating whole foods on a plant-based status.
Plaque can be reduced over time with healthy eating and daily activity. In my mom’s case, this build up and disease took years to finally rear its ugly head through obvious physical pain and shortness of breath. Mom’s body will begin to heal itself, stabilize the plaque that has already accumulated, and allow blood passageways to naturally relax.
Some other lifestyle changes for heart health:
In addition to eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, the following lifestyle modifications can help lower your blood pressure and thus reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Lose weight: Every 2.2 pounds of body weight lost can reduce blood pressure by a point.
- Reduce alcohol consumption: For lower blood pressure, avoid drinking more than two drinks daily if you’re a man and one drink daily if you’re a woman.
- Exercise regularly: Aim for 90 to 150 minutes of exercise weekly.
Find it on Netflix or search YouTube!
To get a big reality check on changing up your eating habits, I am highly recommending this documentary: Forks over Knives. This film will open your eyes and lead you down the road to change your diet for good. Do it for the health of it!