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Heart diseases and our diet

Meat & dairy products have an excess of saturated fats and cholesterol, that lead to a build up of blockages in the arteries and heart diseases. Changes in diet away from these products, helps keep our arteries clean and our heart functioning well.

What is heart disease?

Heart and blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease) includes numerous problems, most of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries, due to excess cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. This build up narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or a stroke.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die

An ischemic stroke (the most common type) happens when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked, usually from a blood clot. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is shut off, brain cells will die. The result will be the inability to carry out some of the previous functions as before like walking or talking. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain bursts. The most likely cause is uncontrolled hypertension.

What causes cardiovascular diseases?

The three most significant causes of all cardiovascular diseases are (1) cholesterol (2) blood pressure (3) smoking. Research has indicated that the risks of a heart attack, can be virtually eliminated if these three factors can be kept in check.

Our arteries get blocked, due to an excess build up of low density lipoproteins (LDL or bad cholesterol) in our blood streams. LDL levels are directly linked to the consumption of saturated fats and the external consumption of cholesterol. Meat and dairy products are high in both saturated fats and cholesterol, while plant based foods contain high levels of unsaturated fats (that increase good cholesterol levels that help declog our arteries) and contain no cholesterol.

This is why, a non-vegetarian diet is closely associated with higher levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, while vegetarian / vegan diets have been recommended as non-medical treatments of the same.

Scientific evidence: Heart disease and diet

Research that has been conducted on the linkage between meat, dairy and heart diseases have found

  • significantly higher risks of heart diseases for consumers of meat & dairy products
  • lower mortality in vegetarians from heart disease
  • higher cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels in non-vegetarians
  • the potential to prevent and reverse heart disease risk by following a plant based diet
  • that a vegan diet is as effective as lovastatin to combat cholesterol

Details of the same (including the research methodology, key findings and a link to the original study) are available in the resource tab below.