Doctors Helping Teachers School Kids on Healthy Eating

On March 26, the McDonald’s in Oxford, N.C., held a “McTeacher’s Night,” in which West Oxford Elementary School teachers worked behind the fast-food counter, selling burgers and chicken nuggets to kids in an effort to raise money. Campaigns like the Coalition for Healthy School Food and the Physicians Committee’s Healthy School Lunches initiative have been working to get this type of unhealthful fare out of the school cafeteria—and for good reason.

According to a report published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 17 percent of children in the United States are obese. In North Carolina, 16 percent of children aged 10 to 17 are obese. Junk food like pizza, bacon, and burgers are some of the top sources of saturated fat in the American diet. (The highest source? Cheese.) The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Red and processed meat products have also been linked to various forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels.

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In a letter to the school principal, the Physicians Committee detailed the ramifications that come from feeding kids a diet full of saturated fat and cholesterol. But we want to help West Oxford Elementary School get a passing grade in nutrition! We’ve offered to sponsor a trip to the local farmers market as well as a tour of Granville Medical Center.

Do you know a school that needs a nutrition overhaul? Send them our Resources for Schools.

Or if you know a school that offers healthful, plant-based meals for its students, nominate them for a Golden Carrot Award at GoldenCarrotAwards.org!

Physician Profile: Kim Williams, M.D.

This physician profile is republished from the Winter 2015 edition of Good Medicine. Dr. Williams will be speaking at our upcoming conference on the topic of a plant-based diet for cardiovascular disease. To learn more or register for the International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease, visit PCRM.org/Conference.

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Kim Williams, M.D., president of the American College of Cardiology, will be among the world’s leading physicians and researchers speaking at the Physicians Committee’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease on July 31 to Aug. 1, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

In this Good Medicine exclusive, Dr. Williams, who began following a vegan diet in 2003, answers questions about the state of heart disease and tips for preventing it.

Describe nutrition or lifestyle recommendations that you discuss with your patients.

Everyone who is able should exercise for at least 45 minutes most days of the week. But food quality and content are also important. High fat and high sugar content increases mortality. Plant-based diets lead to better outcomes, reduce health risks, and have a much more favorable effect on obesity, compared with the standard American diet.

What is the one thing someone can do today to improve their heart health?

Everyone needs to know their critical numbers, such as blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, cholesterol levels, body mass index, and waist circumference. They say knowledge is power. In this case, being aware of risk factors helps motivate people to make a difference.

What do you think is the No. 1 cause of the heart disease epidemic?

I’m happy to say that there is not an escalating epidemic in the United States. We have reduced cardiovascular mortality about 50 percent over the last few decades. However, internationally the numbers are climbing as people and low and middle income countries adopt a more sedentary lifestyle with less healthy foods.

Diet Away Erectile Dysfunction

One surprising early sign of life-threatening heart problems is erectile dysfunction. A new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that screening men with ED for heart disease could help prevent a million heart attacks or strokes over the next 20 years and save billions of dollars. But why let it escalate that far? Vegetables—not Viagra—are the best way to prevent not only ED, but the heart disease it’s linked to.

Of course the first thing that men who are already turning to Viagra, Cialis, and other ED drugs should do is schedule an appointment with their physician. Approximately 44 percent of men with heart disease risk factors—such as ED—are unaware of their risk, according to the study. But if men with ED were screened for heart disease, 5.8 million cases would be identified over 20 years.

Now we know just how costly erectile dysfunction is. The study authors say that even a 20 percent decrease in heart attacks or strokes as a result of screening and treatment could help avoid 1.1 million heart attacks and strokes, saving $21.3 billion over 20 years. And more than 1 million cases of ED would also be treated, saving $9.7 billion. That’s a combined savings of $28.5 billion.

ED is a canary in a coal mine, according to Stephen Kopecky, M.D., who will discuss how ED is an early indicator of heart disease at this summer’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease. Why? Because—as this new study shows—the blocked arteries that cause ED can eventually stop blood flow to the heart and brain.

About 8.8 million men have heart disease—and 5 million of those have a history of heart attack, according to the American Heart Association. Heart disease killed more than 200,000 men in 2009 and 68,814 died from heart attack. Three million men today are stroke survivors, and in 2009, stroke caused the death of more than 50,000 men, says the American Stroke Association.

But arteries can literally open up again simply by adopting a low-fat, plant-based diet. A study in JAMA found that found that normal sexual function returned in almost one-third of the men who ate less saturated fat and cholesterol (both of which are abundant in animal products) and more fiber (only found in plant foods).

The best way to keep the blood pumping is a plant-based diet.