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The Physicians Committee

Carrie Fisher’s Heart Attack Is a Warning for Women

December 27, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   women's health, heart disease


Carrie Fisher, famous for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, died today after suffering a heart attack last week. In the coming days—as fans celebrate her life and mourn her untimely death—I hope that her heart attack will help create an urgently needed conversation about women’s heart health.

During the holiday season, everybody is at increased risk for a heart attack. But year-round, women face a greater danger than men: Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.

What are the signs of a heart attack women should look for? The American Heart Association says that the most common symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. Women are also more likely than men to experience symptoms including shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

While it’s important to know these signs, I’d say it’s equally important to know how to reduce your risk for a heart attack in the first place. Heart disease causes most heart attacks. It is also the No. 1 killer of women, causing a woman to die every minute.

How can women reduce heart disease risk? Don’t smoke. Stay active. Eat a low-fat, plant-based diet and avoid meat and dairy products to maintain a healthy weight and manage blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

A plant-based diet can also help restore your heart health after a heart attack. Take if from Betty Mizek, who survived a heart attack this April. She recently joined me on the ABC News affiliate in Washington, D.C., to talk about how becoming a Barnard Medical Center patient and transitioning to a plant-based diet has improved her heart health. You can watch her inspiring story here: 

Visit PCRM.org/HeartHealth to learn more.

Five Ways to Fight the 'Christmas Coronary'

December 16, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   heart disease


It may be the "most wonderful" time of the year--but it's also the most dangerous time of the year. Have you heard of the "Christmas Coronary"? There is a two-week spike in cardiac deaths between Dec. 25 and Jan. 7. But there are steps you can take now to keep your heart healthy this holiday season and into 2017 and beyond.

  1. Hold the Holiday Ham. Processed meats--like holiday hams and "gift" baskets packed with sausage and pepperoni--are dangerous to your heart. Just 50 grams of processed meat a day--about a slice or two of ham--increases the risk for death from heart disease by 24 percent, not to mention its effect on colon cancer risk.
  2. Empty the Egg Nog. Traditional egg nog is loaded with eggs and high-fat dairy products. People who consume the most eggs can increase their risk for heart disease by 19 percent. For people with diabetes, the risk for developing heart disease from eating eggs can increase by 83 percent. The dairy in egg nog is equally dangerous. One study found that for each glass of milk consumed per day, the risk of dying from heart disease increased.
  3. Chuck the Cheese Ball. Cheese is the No. 1 source of saturated fat in the American diet and can increase the risk of early death from heart disease. Cheese is also a leading source of sodium and has as much cholesterol--ounce per ounce--as steak, raising the risk for heart disease.
  4. Prepare a Plant-Based Plate. A recent study found that those following a plant-based diet had lower mortality rates from heart disease, compared to omnivores. Try our holiday menus.
  5. Kickstart Your New Year. Sign-up for the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart that begins Jan. 1.

USDA: Dump Surplus Cheese on Sens. Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton

December 8, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   dairy


Yesterday, members of Congress voted on Texas queso (melted cheese) versus Arkansas cheese dip (Arkansas “won”). Finally, a solution for what the U.S. Department of Agriculture should do with its millions of pounds of surplus cheese: Dump it on Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, the cheese-obsessed senators who started the cheesy rivalry. It’s better than the USDA’s current plan to distribute the disease-causing stuff to federal food programs.


I say let these cheese-loving members of Congress foot the USDA’s $20 million cheese bill. But as a physician, I have to warn them: Typical cheeses are 70 percent fat and are among the foods highest in cholesterol and sodium, exacerbating obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.


The USDA could then take that $20 million and purchase more fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains that will help keep federal food program participants healthy. If you agree, sign our petition telling the USDA not to dump fatty cheese into federal food programs.


Our New Web Series: The Exam Room—Healthy Holidays

November 18, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   weight loss


Are you worried about staying healthy during the holiday season? Need inspiration for tasty plant-based recipes that will have your family reaching for the Brussels sprouts and butternut squash? Our doctors and dietitians are here to help!

We’re discussing all things Thanksgiving this week on The Exam Room, our new web-based talk show where Physicians Committee and Barnard Medical Center doctors, dietitians, and scientists provide lively insight and opinion on trending nutrition and science topics that matter to you. Stay tuned for upcoming episodes on gut bacteria and hospital food reform. In the meantime, check out our first episode below:

Try out the recipes we mentioned in the video:
Vegan Lentil Cranberry Walnut Loaf with Cranberry Chutney
Sweet Potato Casserole
Vegan Pumpkin Pie
Butternut Squash Soup

For more recipes, check out our plant-based Thanksgiving menu. Happy Thanksgiving!

Studies Link Eggs to Stroke, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancer

November 2, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   cholesterol


Don’t put your health at risk by following the findings of a new American Egg Board-funded study that suggests eating eggs reduces stroke risk. Eggs can actually increase stroke risk (more on that below).

Industry-funded studies like this can mysteriously fail to reveal the health dangers that unbiased studies uncover. Just this week, Reuters reported that in an analysis of 60 studies looking at the link between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity or diabetes, 100 percent of those that failed to find a link were industry-funded. Of the 34 studies that found a connection, only one was industry-funded.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some studies that have found eggs can actually increase stroke risk, as well as the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

In a study published in the journal Stroke, researchers followed the diets of 11,601 participants from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study and monitored protein sources and stroke incidence rates. Those who consumed the most eggs had a 41 percent increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke, compared with those who consumed the least.

Diabetes and Heart Disease
Eggs also increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, according to a meta-analysis published in Atherosclerosis. Researchers reviewed 14 studies and found that those who consumed the most eggs had a 19 and 68 percent increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes, respectively, compared with those who ate the fewest eggs. For those who already had diabetes, the risk for developing heart disease from eating the most eggs jumped by 83 percent.

Another study published in Atherosclerosis found that participants who ate the most eggs, compared with those who ate the least, had 80 percent higher coronary artery calcium scores, a measure of heart disease risk. And a meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming three or more eggs per week increases an American's risk for type 2 diabetes.

Prostate Cancer
Eating eggs has also been linked prostate cancer by a National Institutes of Health-funded study. By consuming 2.5 eggs per week, men increased their risk for a deadly form of prostate cancer by 81 percent, compared with men who consumed less than half an egg per week.

Learn more about the dangers of eggs at TheTruthAboutEggs.org.


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