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How Healthy Is Your Heart?

Written by PETA | June 26, 2008


lovecarrots / CC
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Recent news of the untimely passing of Tim Russert has struck a chord with a lot of people now questioning their own health. Doctors confirmed that the 58-year-old Meet the Press moderator died of a heart attack—a cause of death all too common in our country. Heart disease is actually one of the top three killers that our country faces, alongside cancer and strokes. And heart disease is commonly a symptom of poor diets, so it’s a serious matter that should make everyone think twice about the foods they’re choosing to put in their bodies.

Remember all those times your mother wouldn’t let you leave the dinner table before finishing your vegetables? Well, she was on to something. We’re not talking about the latest scientific discovery here—just the facts that have been around for a long time.

A vegetarian diet can have a profound impact on the health of the human body. Filling your stomach with plant-based foods instead of animal products eliminates the unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol that come from consuming animals and animal byproducts, not to mention all the steroids pumped into the animals for unnatural rapid growth results.

We’ve received so many questions about heart health since Russert’s tragic death that we sent off a letter to the editor highlighting just how beneficial a vegetarian diet can be—even reducing the risk of developing heart disease by 50 percent.

Go on over to the VegCooking Blog to find some truly delicious recipes that will make both your tummy and your heart happy. Homemade vegan shepherd’s pie, anyone?

Posted by Jennifer Cierlitsky

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  • Mike Quinoa says:

    Derek I couldn’t care less where you feel you should “lump” me and frankly I find your attitude patronizing. “I love being a vegetarian and would hope that all people would see the health benefits in improving their diet. Lifestyle changes are difficult on any level let alone one as drastic as this diet.” I don’t think it’s obvious from the paragraph above that the adjective “drastic” refers to the Esselstyn diet. You may feel that farmers are a stubborn bunch but Howard Lyman Dr. Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell are all from farming backgrounds so even the “stubborn” aren’t totally intractable.

  • Derek says:

    Gerry If your intent was to compare me to the infamous physician at Auschwitz Josef Megele known as the “Angel of Death” then at least spell the name correctly. By the way I happened to be a History major in college and have never participated in human experimentation…except when I was a poor student trying to earn some extra cash selling my body to the Univerity of Iowa’s various research projects. So far none of my patients 4 years worth have had open heart surgery…I guess I should publish my statistical results and write a book as well. Just because I am not willing to be a walking billboard for the website that you managed to slip into almost all of your posts does not mean that I do not treat coronary heart disease with a combination of diet exercise and medication. Being a vegetarian I spend a lot of time on the diet aspect.

  • Maya, CVT says:

    Gerry with all due respect your information does not seem to be from real published scientific studies” Saying that “Surgery for heart disease is 85 percent preventable” is a real slap in the face to certain people. Some people who can’t afford dental care will develop gum disease so severe that the bacteria from their diseased mouths will travel from their gums through the bloodstream and into the heart. This is not preventable just by daily brushing etc. In fact advances in professional dental care is one of the things credited with giving humans a longer life span. Sadly it is expensive. Humans cats and dogs need to have professional teeth cleanings on a regular basis to prevent heart disease. These realities don’t always fit into the scheme of animal rights but they are based on science.

  • Christopher Cochran MD says:

    Gerry I am puzzled why you would turn on one of your own. Dr. Derek is a vegetarian. If you are going to attack someone try me I eat animal products every day. Who is Mengela? Oh you must mean Josef MENGELE! That seems fair. A vegetarian FP in the US vs. a Nazi who experimented on Roma and Poles actually not so many Jews as the Nazis thought they were subhuman and an inadequate animal model. I’ll say it again you are making this too easy. I’ve been meaning to ask you where you got your data on the ulterior motives MOST physicians chose their vocations.

  • Derek says:

    Mike You are obviously confused about the diet to which I was calling “drastic” as I was referring to Dr. Esselstyn’s diet and not a general vegetarian diet like the one I and my family follow as being a drastic change from most people’s diet especially a steak for breakfast lunch and dinner farmer. Also you speak as though I have not made attempts at improving the diet of my patients please don’t force me to lump you into the annoying “nonmedical expert” category along with Gerry. Farmers are a stubborn bunch…if they even agree to come to the doctor in the first place. In regards to death and disease being a motivator…try again. I have tried to “scare” diabetic patients with a discussion on heart attacks visual loss limb amputations and for males impotence yet until one of these events befalls that particular patient very few are motivated to change. It’s a combination of wanting a pill to solve all of their problems and the “it’ll never happen to me” mentality that is so prevalent.

  • Gerry says:

    As a physician Derek sees nothing drastic about openheart surgery and the suffering related to it. Just another moral debacle he suffers from when surgery is for heartdisease is 85 preventable. I just realized what Derek’s last name is Mengela

  • Mike Quinoa says:

    Derek Why would you call a vegetarian diet “drastic”? It is no more or less so than an omnivorous one. I had many favourite meals that were already vegetarian and with a little culinary ingenuity I’ve devised many more. Now I can make veg meals consisting of nutrientdense whole foods on autopilot. I don’t have to worry about wiping this and washing that and cleanup is usually just a warm water rinse. With a little initial groundwork it’s a very easy diet to follow. I wouldn’t sell the farmers in your practice shortdeath and disease can be pretty motivating. If Howard Lyman can go vegan anybody can. This would also give you a firsthand opportunity to see what a difference a vegan diet may make in someone’s numbers.

  • Derek says:

    Gerry Apparently they don’t teach statistics at taxi school as a study with only 17 people while interesting lacks the statistical power to be meaningful. From what little I have read on the topic because of the reported results Cleveland Clinic took an interest in his dietary model and appointed Dr. Esselstyn to their Wellness department. I too find his methods interesting but the diet is of little practical use to me no amount of preaching will get the farmers in my practice to give up their steak let alone ice cream! If somone were seriously motivated to make drastic lifestyle changes I would do everything I could as their physician to support and help them. Your psychology classes at taxi school apparently are as lacking as the ones in statistics given your estimation on motivation for entering the medical field. With all the garbage physicians have to deal with most coming from uninformed or uneducated sources I can promise that if one did not love what they were doing or really want to help people then few would be or remain in the field. And yes Gerry I count you among the uniformed and uneducated when it comes to the medical field. You have basically bought into an infomercial when the results are published in the NEJM or some other respectable medical journal then I will fully support the results. Belief in the validity of the scientific method is not ignorance without it one could easily jump on many bandwagons. So to summarize interesting results but not yet statistically relevant or practical. I love being a vegetarian and would hope that all people would see the health benefits in improving their diet. Lifestyle changes are difficult on any level let alone one as drastic as this diet.

  • Christopher Cochran MD says:

    Gerry If you are accusing me of becoming a physician for inappropriate reasons then I refuse to take the bait. I know why I am a physician. I know I do my very best. I have probably forgotten more than you will ever know about the Cleveland Clinic or the anatomy physiology and pathology of the heart or any other organ. A study with seventeen people is a lousy study. It is a precursor study at best and to segue that study into a book brings credibility further under the scope. I will not tell you how to drive a taxi. If you turned me loose in CT with a taxi cab I would be as lost as a Democrat. Your arguments are specious and you are making this too easy.

  • Holly says:

    Interesting Gerry thanks for telling us about your experience’s… Go Vegan save up to 100 farm animals per person per year…save your health… and our earth…

  • Gerry says:

    Folks I have driven a taxi in the booming Yale medical school and research community. About 10 years ago a veterinarian said to me that in MOST cases a person desires to be a vet. due to a deep feeling to help animals. Sadly this is NOT true when guaging MOST physicians and student tobe Doctors. So far 2 Doctors on this blog refuse to see the easily grasped pure science from http://www.heartattackproof.com. In my taxi pickups MOST of my conversations with medical people found very deep ignorance. MOST were not concerned with the real reasons one should feel when choosing this career.

  • Holly says:

    Saucy What a nice post… I think you should post menu suggestions from time to time.. love that you also added wine and beer! Thank You Saucy! Go Vegan…Save up to 100 farm animals per year…

  • Christopher Cochran MD says:

    Saucy Your menu rundown sounds delicious and nutritious but my diet is not my religion it is more of an interest or hobby. I appreciate your views and beliefs though I do not share them. Keep fighting the good fight.

  • Saucy says:

    Dear Doc The only way I would let you see my cute and cuddly as puppy side my nickname is lassieis if you put down that hunting rifle and join PCRM. Need a good VeggieMan. I avoid kissing meateaters like the plague. My breakfast this morning was soy yogurt with yummy granola topped with organic berries. For lunch two teaspoons of soy butter melting in a fry pan portabello mushrooms I throw in a mix cabbage and some broccoli and losts of spinach. I’ll zap a couple of creamer potatoes and add another teaspoon of soy butter. Eight points so far on weight watchers. I get eighteen to twentytwo points. I’ll have a protein bar at work and maybe an apple or carrot juice with beet celery kale parsely swiss chard 0 points except the carrots and apple and when I get home I’ll have either a flamed grilled gardenburger with all the trimmings or a gardenburger chix pattie with tomatoe and veganaise the most delicious sandwich spread you’ll find at the supermarketwith none of the fat or colestrol. I am still at only sixteen points which leaves room for three light beers or glasses of wine and have one point I can bank for the end of the week. Yes I’ve got them fooled. They don’t believe when I tell them how old I am they think I am a spy or posing. You know they say vegans are very creative cooks and it is true but the most important part of this equation is not spilling blood which this vegevangelist believes to be a grave error a huge mistake.

  • Derek says:

    I have to agree with Dr. Cochran on his assesment of both the website in question and the quality or more specifically the lack of power of Dr. Esselstyn’s study. I am a physician as well and did not know that Cleveland Clinic was the “best.” Sure it is well ranked even 1 in some areas by US News but that is not “common knowledge” to most people or physicians. That said as a vegetarian and physician I do not agree with Dr. Cochran’s opinion on what constitutes the healthiest diet but I repsect the manner in which he presents his opinions. As I am sure Dr. Cochran will attest there are few medical opinions shared by all physicians yet there are many acceptable ways to treat one’s patients. Medically I do not see anything negligent in his dietary recommendations as lean meats are healthier than the 80 ground chuck logs from Super WalMart. Ethically regarding meat consumption I do not agree with Dr. Cochran but that’s a totally different topic.

  • Gerry says:

    Dr. Cochran The FACT is STILL when the families of physicians get heart disease they know that the VERY BEST RX is Dr. Essystyns “heartreversal program” at The Cleveland Clinic. If you were a physician you would not say asinine things about just “seventeen people”. Before and after photos showing miraculous arterial changes should be your interest. All of your postings show great ignorance and resistance to scienctific revelation. The pioneers of heart disease reversal research are Ornish and McDougal who fully support Dr. Essylstyns findings. EVOLVE

  • Holly says:

    COMPASSION FOR ANIMALS Fishers and animal rights advocates have long debated whether or not fish can feel pain. Among the overwhelming evidence that fish can suffer is a recent report by a team of marine biologists at Edinburghs Roslin Institute. The report was published by the Royal Society one of Britains leading scientific institutes. The researchers found that rainbow trout possess pain receptors and react to a harmful substance in this case acetic acid with profound behavioral and physiological changes . . . over a prolonged period comparable to those observed in higher mammals. The researchers concluded that their findings fulfill the criteria for animal pain. Their conclusion is also consistent with common sense fish like other animals need to be able to feel pain in order to survive. Methods of catching and killing fish are clearly abusive. When fish are hauled up from a considerable depth the sudden change in pressure on their bodies causes painful decompression that often causes their gills to collapse and their eyes to pop out. As soon as fish are removed from water they begin to suffocate. Hooked fish struggle because of pain and fear. As described by Tom Hopkins professor of marine science at the University of Alabama getting hooked on a line is like dentistry without Novocain drilling into exposed nerves. Fish who are farmed rather than caught experience moreprolonged suffering. Today in the United States to maximize profit most farmed trout salmon catfish and other fish are raised in the same sort of intensive crowding found in commercial chicken and pig operations. Like the chickenflesh industry fish farming involves largescale highly mechanized production. Thousands of fish are crammed into ponds troughs or seafloating cages so that fish farmers can raise the greatest possible number of fish per cubic foot of water. In most cases each fish is allotted a space scarcely larger than their body. Farmed fish are fed pellets designed for unnaturally rapid weight gain. Under these abnormal intensely crowded conditions fish suffer from stress infections parasites oxygen depletion and gas bubble disease similar to the bends in humans. In an effort to prevent the spread of disease among the fish producers give them large amounts of antibiotics. Even so many fish die before slaughter. For economic reasons and to reduce fish feces most farmed fish are starved for days or weeks before theyre slaughtered. Fish are not the only animals to suffer because of peoples appetite for their flesh. Egrets hawks and other birds who eat fish commonly are shot or poisoned to prevent them from eating the captives of these large open pools. Also many sea turtles dolphins sea birds and invertebrates suffer horrible deaths in commercial fishing nets. Go Vegan save your health the animals and our earth…

  • Holly says:

    rojo Nice to see you. Fish do feel pain its a fact. Even if the hook did not hurt them which I think it does it sure would hurt and be painful to suffocate to death or to get your head cut off. see my next post… I in no way would eat the flesh of any animal. As for the animals that get caught up as a result of plant production which is sad however they at least live free and have a chance of escape. Go Vegan save up to 100 farm animals per year save your health and our earth…

  • Christopher Cochran MD says:

    Gerry the website you cited is an infomercial for that guy’s book hardly a good reference. I would never “pose” as you put it as I am not nearly as comely as you grassfed folks. It is not a “fact” that the “best” doctors are at CC. There are some very good physicians there and it is well recognized but I do not know how your gauge measures physician quality. Frankly you sound like some sort of religious zealot with bad grammar and that is boring. The more I think of it the more you remind me of the young earth creationist electrician working on my house. I do not know how to argue or discuss with dogmatic poorly prepared people. All the best. In my medical opinion the modern AmericanWestern diet is poisonous. I believe however that the plants we eat corn and the way they are processed are as much to blame as the meats we eat. I believe that human physiology is designed around a largely fresh vegetable diet that also includes lean meats read wild game and healthy animal products such as wild eggs. I encourage my patients to try to emulate this diet with modern ingredients as best they can. I also practice what I preach. I am fortunate enough to have access to a bounty of wild game and fish which I believe is extremely healthy for my family and myself. I grow my own vegetables to a great degree and do not overprocess them. I believe if your morality has evolved to the point that you can not bear the thought of eating an animal then you can still eat an extremely healthy diet with thoughtful choices. I do not oppose vegetarianism or veganism at all. If the only meat I could get was at the grocery store I too might be a vegetarian. I am not an evangelical omnivore.

  • Maya, C.V.T. says:

    Hi Rojo! There may not have been studies done on fish with hooks in their mouths but there is volumes and volumes of evidence that fish both have the evolutionary need to feel pain and that they have the parts of the brain which produce pain. I’ll try to furnish you with proof tomorrow if I have time. Still running around like a madwoman you know. LOL ps See my comment on the lobster post this month for an elaboration of what I said.

  • rojo says:

    hi Maya there isn’t much proof one way or the other that fishhooks cause pain to fish. One would assume so from a human perspective but as we know animals perceive stimuli differently ie. the dog with many times more smell sensitivity can happily smell things that would make us gag. httpwww.ausfish.com.auvforumshowthread.php?t53846 holly if it makes you feel better you could just eat beef where one cow’s worth will feed you for a couple of years. A dairy cow will provide you 20 years worth of milk per “vealer” or 50 years worth over her own productive life. Buy a couple of chooks for the backyard and you need only cause one death per annum. Depends on the choices you make. You are of course aware how many creatures die in the production of grains fruit and vegies aren’t you?

  • Sue says:

    Low Carb is very healthy for your heart.

  • Rachel says:

    I don’t see why a balanced diet containing meat would be better than a balanced diet that does not contain it. Some could argue that they would be equal but in no way is a meaty diet better. Of course the key word here is “balanced”. This post is not advocating a junk food vegan lifestyle it’s calling for increased awareness of what we put in our bodies. That’s a great message! I feel very healthy on a vegan diet but don’t take my word for it try it yourself before you make a conclusion!

  • Gerry says:

    Dr. Cochran When the surgical and medical communities get heart disease as well as their family members they flock to the Cleveland Clinic! No matter how bad a physician or surgeon or scientist in their field is they ALL know who the BEST are this is a fact. You just shown the world that you indeed are no physician at all. Get some therapy and fix yourself and find out the real reason you are POSING as a Doctor.

  • Holly says:

    You made me laugh Christopher! Eat meat and bodies act as graveyards for animals. Go Vegan save up to 100 farm animals per person per year save your health and the earth…

  • Christopher Cochran MD says:

    Saucy you sound like a very beautiful and healthy…puppy? Dr. Esselstyn’s groundbreaking nutritional study had seventeen participants. Huh? I am sure his book is selling well though.

  • Christopher Cochran MD says:

    Curses!!! Foiled by the internet again. Someday I’ll get you internet!! I was a fool to think that years of training and thousands of patient encounters could ever stand up to the ever omniscient internet. I bow before you great Oz.

  • Gerry says:

    To get the VERY BEST scientific facts the website is http://www.heartattackproof.com. It has shown clearly that those people adhering to vegan diets do the best in reversing their heart disease. Astonishingly those whose vegan diets are followed 100 perfect except for an intake of olive oilhigh saturated fat you will see how detrimental this one thing is to their progress! Once again Dr. Cochran is proved wrong. The author of this website is Caldwell Esselstyn from the Cleveland Clinic.

  • Saucy says:

    It is totally false that you need to eat meat to get all the vitamins and minerals that you need to be healthy. Why do some people come on this blog and try to make these lies become truths. I am one of the healthiest people I know I lack nothing energy strong bones shiny hair good skin tone so save your lies for someplace where the heartless bloodsucking polluters fools will believe you Here you will only be proven wrong.

  • Kyle Hoff says:

    I dont think that being strictly vegitarian will reduce the risk of a heart attack. I believe that you should have a balanced diet that consists of meats vegatables and fruits to fully get all the proteins and vitamins that you need to be strong and healthy. Alot of vegitarian foods are bad for you i.e. potato chips and other sweet candie products. It all comes down to how you plan your diet. Chicken and rabbit is a lean meat that does give you high cholesterol. and if so does it contain the kind of bad cholesterol. and yes are rivers and streams are becoming more polluted but we need to clean up the rivers and most of the fish you get is from farms with fresh water. Plus animals eat other animal. Will a bear go to jail just because he eats a salmon from a stream? No that is absurd.

  • Maya, CVT says:

    Well I think it completely depends on our respective defenitions of cruel but needless to say it’s a no brainer that fish most likely feel terrible pain as the fishing hook punctures their mouth. Fish is very healthy minus the mercury and such but PETA’s point is that flaxseed oil can replace fish omega 3s very easily. I don’t know if omega 3 FAs found in fish are identical to that of flaxseed. I also know there are different types of vitamin D I assume the kind found in fish can easily be replaced as well. Eating wild raspberries is so fun it should be illegal.

  • Christopher Cochran MD says:

    Maya I was only speaking to the health benefit issue. Overconsumption will always be a problem for humans. I do my part to avoid this and I try to take up some of my neighbor’s slack as well. I do not think fishing is cruel in the least. I think fishing is a part of the cycle of life but like any beautiful natural thing when interposed on human greed fishing can be awful and ugly. For the record my supper last night was completely vegetarian most of which came from my own garden. My wife and I went for a walk afterwards and gorged on wild raspberries for desert. sometimes overconsumption is not reasonable to avoid!

  • Maya, CVT says:

    Chris I agree with you and absent PETA’s health persuasions in order to achieve a more humane world I think there is a different way of viewing this. Even if salmon is the healthiest diet in the world the pollution of the oceans and especially overfishing will harm humans eventually. If you beleive that salmon is healthy then killing them all off is a bad move. I beleive that if we simply lived off the land allowed wildlife to live their lives and did not factory farm PETA’s argument would be much weaker. However bottom trawling oil spills mercury contamination depleting fish stocks and destroying coral reefs and mangroves from shrimp farming has made the fishing industry harmful to our oceans marine life and ourselves. Of course PETA’s issue is mostly with cruel fishing methods I think it’s worth considering that if people at least tried vegetarian several times a week we could have enough natural resources for everyone.

  • Christopher Cochran MD says:

    There is no doubt that most people do not eat nearly enough unprocessed vegetables while eating way too many simple processed carbohydrates and poor meatanimal choices. A well chosen vegetarian diet is very healthy but a poorly chosen diet of any sort is no healthier than any other. My opinion is that a well chosen omnivorous diet is the healthiest choice with a well chosen vegetarian diet a close second. You can’t lump all plant or animal foods in one pile. Wild caught salmon isn’t bratwurst no more than swiss chard is a donut.

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