Wow that was scary, but you survived. Now it's time to make sure that never happens again. According to the CDC 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. And 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, making it the #1 killer of Americans. An unhealthy diet, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes & pre-diabetes, smoking & physical inactivity are the top risk factors. Maybe your doctor, family or friends had told you that you needed to get in shape, but you didn't take it seriously or didn't know where to start. But there's nothing like a good scare to adjust your priorities. So now that you are committed to making a change, what should you do?
1) Go Vegan
You may say "Going vegan seems very extreme" and I would counter that it's far less extreme than another heart attack, a stroke, or needing open heart surgery. A whole-foods vegan diet is the absolute best diet to minimize all the risk factors for heart disease. Studies have shown that a vegan diet is effective for weight loss, preventing and reversing diabetes, and is associated with lower blood pressure. Most importantly a vegan diet has been shown to not only prevent atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries) but 82% of participants in a recent study were able to reverse their atherosclerosis without surgery! The benefits of a vegan diet are so well-documented that insurance provider Kaiser Permanente published a research summary urging physicians to recommend a vegan diet to their clients.
2) Achieve a healthy body weight
A healthy body weight, as defined by a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 is associated with lower incidence of heart attack, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Calculate your BMI using the tool here. Choosing a low-calorie, nutrient-dense vegan diet over a low-nutrient calorie-dense standard American diet promotes weight loss. While a vegan diet will help you lose weight, you will still need to work at it. Focus on removing unhealthy eating behaviors like eating straight from food containers, or in front of the TV. See my past blog posts on lifestyle change and mindful eating for more weight loss tips.
3) Enlist the help of a professional
Working with a Dietitian can really help you lose the weight and get healthy. Both a 2017 meta-analysis of 26 nutrition intervention studies and a 2007 meta-analysis of 46 nutrition intervention studies found that participants who worked with a Dietitian were significantly more likely to lose weight than those who tried to do it on their own. A 2011 study of hypertensive (high blood pressure) patients showed that participants who worked with a Dietitian were significantly more likely to lose at least 10% of their body weight and keep it off for the length of the study (48 months). Your life is valuable. Invest in yourself by hiring a professional to help you lose weight, improve your health, and extend your lifespan!