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  2. Sep 10, 2018

CDC Should Prescribe Plant-Based Diet for Middle-Aged Hearts

by Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C.

Middle-aged adults are being especially hard hit by heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So it just launched Million Hearts to help prevent a million heart attacks and strokes by 2022. The initiative encourages people to eat a heart-healthy diet, get physically active, and quit smoking. Good advice. But the CDC’s Million Hearts Initiative should be clear that the heart-healthiest diet is a plant-based diet.

The CDC says that about 16 million heart attacks, strokes, and related events could happen by 2022, but that 80 of premature heart disease and strokes are preventable by focusing on what it calls the ABCS of heart health: Aspirin use when appropriate, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and Smoking cessation.

Well, research shows that eating more fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans, and avoiding meat, dairy products, and eggs—which are packed with saturated fat and cholesterol—is the best prescription for blood pressure control and cholesterol management.

In fact, my colleagues and I recently published a scientific review in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases that looked at multiple clinical trials and observational studies and found that a plant-based diet:

  • Reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 40 percent.
  • Reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 40 percent.
  • Fully or partially opens blocked arteries in up to 91 percent of patients.
  • Reduces the risk of hypertension by 34 percent.
  • Is associated with 29 mg/dL and 23 mg/dL lower total cholesterol and LDL-C levels, respectively, compared with non-vegetarian diets.

Of course, plenty of other research shows similar benefits. So if the CDC wants to help prevent 1 million heart attacks by 2022, a plant-based diet is good medicine.

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