It has only been in the past 30 years that medical researchers have believed that coronary artery disease can be reversible. Prior to that time, the prevailing belief is that the condition would only get worse and the best people could do was manage it once they received a diagnosis. Dr. Dean Ornish was the first to suggest that switching from a primary meat-based diet to a plant-based diet could not only stop the disease from progressing but could also reverse its course.
Dr. Ornish also suggested that regular exercise such as walking, having a strong social network, and knowing how to manage stress could go a long way towards keeping this serious and life-shortening illness at bay. Twenty years later, in 2010, the federal Medicare program recognized the Ornish protocol and began offer practitioners reimbursement for recommending it to their patients. Despite this groundbreaking knowledge, coronary artery and other vascular diseases such as aneurysms, atherosclerosis, blood clots, hypertension, peripheral artery disease, pulmonary embolisms, and stroke remain the leading cause of death around the world.
Because United Hospital Center (UHC) is concerned for the people we serve, we have joined forces with Dare to C.A.R.E., a free vascular and heart education and screening program. In honor of this partnership, we offer information on five superfoods below that can help lower your risk of developing vascular disease or slow or reverse its progress if you already have it.
Foods That Help Prevent Vascular Diseases:
This citrus fruit originates in Italy in that country’s Calabria region. People sometimes refer to them as citrus lemons as well. Although the taste of bergamot closely resembles lemons, the appearance is more similar to an orange. Consuming this fruit on a regular basis can help to lower cholesterol and blood sugar, both of which are essential in fighting vascular diseases.
A 2016 study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that patients who already had thickening of the carotid arteries showed significant improvement with this and other symptoms after taking a bergamot supplement daily for six months. Eighty people took place in the study, including 38 women and 42 men with an average age of 55 years old.
Garlic has long been associated with the ability to break up blood clots, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. The NIH also conducted a study in 2016 on the effects of garlic on patients with uncontrolled cases of hypertension. The agency concluded that garlic has the ability to reduce blood pressure, stiffness of the arteries, and inflammation when patients with these risk factors consumed it on a regular basis.
When combined with onion, garlic provides sulfur in the diet that may be challenging to obtain otherwise. This helps to reduce symptoms and risk by delivering an optimal amount of antioxidants to the body.
The properties in green tea can lower cholesterol, inflammation, and oxidative stress in people with a vascular disease or with a high risk of developing one. In a 2014 study by the National Institutes of Health, people who regularly drank green tea have better overall heart health than those who do not. That is because green tea improves the strength and viability of cells that line the blood vessels leading to the heart. The improvement can come as quickly as 30 minutes after consuming the last glass of green tea.
The legume is a plant that resembles peas. It contains a row of seeds inside that are visible after splitting the plant along its natural seams. More than 18,000 species of this plant grow around the world. Legumes are popular in the form of peas, beans, peanuts, alfalfa, and lentils. The American Heart Association recommends including legumes as part of the daily whole grain requirement.
According to a 2014 NIH study, regular consumption of legumes can lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Compared to a high fat animal-based diet, eating legumes offers an important source of fiber and minerals that can help to reduce vascular disease risk factors.
The pomegranate fruit contains strong antioxidants that can help to improve HDL cholesterol levels and potentially reverse coronary artery disease altogether. Animal studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health indicate that regular ingestion of pomegranate can improve the condition atherosclerosis. An older study completed by the NIH indicates this same result in people showing current signs of oxidative stress that could lead to a diagnosis of a vascular condition. Eating the fruit daily, drinking it as juice, or taking it as a supplement can widen carotid arteries that had already narrowed due to disease.
UHC is Here to Help You Make Healthy Choices
There is nothing easy about making significant lifestyle changes such as switching to a mainly plant-based diet and increasing exercise. However, we have seen in other patients that the rewards are well worth the effort. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to UHC for additional support and resources as you make these important changes.
Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing related symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.