It was a nice summer weekend. We were having a family picnic and playing volleyball when my uncle, who was 48 years old then, felt down. We realized that he is having a heart attack only after an ambulance came and he was transferred to a hospital. Doctors inserted stents into his two blocked arteries to restore blood flow. My uncle recovered from that hearth attack but my heart did not settle down. Why did he have a heart disease at a relatively young age? And my uncle is not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us the bitter truth: One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from hearth diseases. However, by making long-term lifestyle changes we can slow down this rate.

Let’s start with some facts on the hearth disease and its risks factors.

• Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S and poor nutrition is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

• According to a recent report from the American Heart Association together with National Institutes of Health 1 in every 3 deaths is due to hearth diseases in the U.S.

• According to the same report, the annual direct cost of hearth diseases in the United States was estimated at $219 billion in 2014 to 2015.

• Diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and saturated fats increase risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. In fact, a study published in Global Health Metrics Journal in 2017 assessed the effects of 67 risks factors on deaths and disabilities in the U.S. found that the unhealthy diet is the most important risk factor.

• Similarly, according to a research paper published in medical journal JAMA, a group of researchers found that almost half of deaths in one year caused by heart disease and stroke in a large group of Americans were linked with a poor diet.

Now we learned that heart disease is a serious problem in the U.S. and a healthy diet is critical to reduce heart diseases, let’s now discuss about a particular diet that is essential in prevention and management of heart diseases.

• Plant based whole food diet that centers on whole, unrefined, and unprocessed foods can significantly reduce the risk for heart diseases and even reverse it.

• This diet is made up of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. For maximal health benefits this diet avoids animal products. However, the key is to focus on eating closer to the plant, not simply a vegan or vegetarian diet. Vegans can eat potato chips, gummy candy, and even cookies, but a plant based whole food diet emphasize staying away from any processed foods.


• It should not be a surprise that this diet reduces heart disease because it is high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and probiotics which are live microorganisms and provide numerous health benefits to our body. The plant-based diet is also low in saturated fats and endotoxins which are toxic substances. It also offers all the necessary protein from protein-rich plant-based foods such as beans or quinoa.

• To further understand the role of plant-based whole food diet in prevention of heart diseases, I want to talk about the findings of several a research study published in in Journal of Nutrition. In this study, the relation between healthy diet patterns and chronic disease outcomes was investigated. The study found that the diet patterns associated with lower risk of death from heart disease or any cause are all included high consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole-grains, and legumes and lower consumption of red and processed meat.

• Plant-based whole food diet can also reverse heart diseases. As discussed in an interesting article in Preventive Cardiology journal, in 1996, a 44-year-old doctor experienced occasional chest discomfort, yet no evidence of disease was found. He was lean, non-diabetic, and eating the typical American diet. He did not smoke, and had no family history of coronary disease. A few months later, he became acutely ill with pain in the left arm and chest. It was found that his left anterior descending artery was diseased. The patient committed to follow a plant-based diet. Over the next 32 months, without any drugs, he lowered his total cholesterol almost by half. His x-rays taken after 32 months of plant-based diet showed that the disease was completely reversed as can be seen here.

• Another example for effectiveness of nutritional intervention to stop or even reverse hearth diseases is the study published in Journal of Family Practice in 2014. In this study, the researchers explained 198 patients that plant-based diet can be successful in arresting and sometimes reversing heart diseases. 177 patients adopted the diet while 21 patients were nonadherent with diet intervention. Over about 4 years, 62% of patients in nonadherent group experienced at least one adverse cardiac event. On the other hand, only 10% of the patients that followed a plant-based diet required vascular intervention. Also, 99.4% of these patients avoided major cardiac events.

There are many other scientific studies on this topic, but I will stop here and hope you all will carefully think about these findings.

In conclusion, now you know heart diseases is number one cause of death globally and it is caused by a short list of risk factors, the most important of which is poor nutrition, I hope I have convinced you to consider a change in your diet. If you eat the standard Western diet like my uncle who had a stroke at the age of 48, it is quite likely you will develop heart disease. A whole food, plant-based diet can minimize heart disease risk and even reverse it. It is one of the most important factors associated with a long and healthy life. To me, this is not a diet, but a way of life. I watch what I eat because I care about my body, including my heart.

Cansu Ozbulut