Treating Heart Disease
“In the first 30 days you can begin to change your life and become an effective partner with your doctor,” says Richard Stein, M.D., a cardiologist and the founder of the Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation Program at the 92nd St Y in New York. Stein says you can make the most of that initiative in the first 30 days through three key steps—understanding the disease and what treatment is needed; starting all necessary medication and quitting bad habits like smoking; and making lifestyle changes like Phil’s.
Some doctors go so far as to recommend an entirely plant-based diet. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., M.D. argues that conventional cardiology focuses on the symptoms and not the cause. “Medications and surgeries are like Band-Aids. We need to get to the core of the problem, which is our western diet,” he claims.
Esselstyn contends that one of the fastest ways to reverse heart disease is to eat a largely plant based diet and cut processed oils, meat and dairy. He points to his own studies, which have shown successful reversal of the disease in hundreds of his own patients as well as examples from other populations in Central Africa and New Guinea who eat a mostly plant based diet.
Relax—Your Heart Will Thank You!
Beyond the physical risk factors for heart disease, emotional and lifestyle stresses can affect heart health. While researchers are still uncertain of the exact role stress plays in heart disease, data shows that there is a link between elevated levels of stress hormones and heart disease. Studies show that stress increases blood pressure—causing the heart to work harder and faster. It also increases the release of fatty acids, which over time can increase cholesterol levels, a significant risk factor for plaque build-up.
Anxiety, resentment, frustration and worry can abuse your heart if left unchecked. Experts say it is one thing people don’t talk about enough. “Stress is a significant risk factor. In coping with heart disease it is so important to maintain or reconnect with people you feel you can really confide in. Social support is a powerful mechanism in healing,” says Stein.
Survivors say it is all about gaining perspective. “Before my heart attack I thought I was the bullet proof corporate executive,” says forty-seven year old Bob Attanasio of Connecticut. “After about 30 days I went back to work but with more of a value for balance. When I was at work and something went wrong, I realized I can’t control everything.”