Is it possible to reverse heart disease? Well, we know that regular exercise, stress reduction, watching your weight, and eating a healthy diet can definitely slow down heart disease progression, but can it be reversed altogether? Unfortunately, it cannot, though some damage can be undone through a healthy lifestyle.
Eating a certain diet and embarking on specific exercises can help reverse some of the symptoms of heart disease. This includes following a vegetarian diet, doing yoga, or even going for regular walks. For example, Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, explained that patients who enrolled in his program and were scheduled for a heart transplant no longer required it after the program.
Dr. Ornish explained, “Our studies show that with significant lifestyle changes, blood flow to the heart and its ability to pump normally improve in less than a month, and the frequency of chest pains fell by 90 percent in that time. Within a year on our program, even severely blocked arteries in the heart became less blocked, and there was even more reversal after 5 years. That’s compared with…other patients in our study, in which the heart just got worse and worse.”
Below you will find what it takes to reverse heart disease and improve heart function.
Ornish’s plan specifically involves yoga, walking at least 30 minutes a day, meditation, and other stress-reducing practices. The most important part is switching up your diet from all-American to something healthier.
He places food in five categories, from healthiest to least healthy. The healthiest method to eat for heart health is vegetarian, according to Ornish, which involves a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nonfat dairy, and egg whites. On the other hand, you should avoid fats, refined sugars, and processed carbohydrates. Ornish suggests that you should try to stick with foods that are as natural as possible.
Other recommendations from Ornish include maintaining a healthy weight, taking all your medications as prescribed, keeping up with your doctor’s appointments, not smoking, and avoiding second-hand smoke.
To some, following Ornish’s plan may be too strict, but if your goal is to live a long and healthy life, then, you may need to make these changes. Although the diet may seem restrictive, there are actually plenty of food options available that are healthy and can promote heart health. Sure, you may not be able to enjoy fried or fast food, but over time it will become easier and easier to stick with your new healthy plan.
If going vegetarian is too extreme for you, then you’ll be happy to know that there is strong evidence that the Mediterranean diet can go a long way in improving heart disease. The Mediterranean diet incorporates fish, along with fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil, small amounts of red meat, and even a glass of wine.
The best evidence to support the Mediterranean diet’s effect on heart health comes from the Lyon Diet Heart Study, which found that adhering to the diet could cut the risk of heart-related death by 70 percent, compared to the diet recommended by the American Heart Association.
The Mediterranean diet is less restrictive, meaning people find it easier to follow compared to going full-fledged vegetarian.
Another diet that has gained traction for its ability to support heart health is the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet consists of eating foods that our cavemen ancestors consumed. This means following a hunter-gatherer style of eating. Essentially, you would avoid foods that are refined or processed, and eat foods that could have been hunted or gathered.
The premise for any heart healthy diet is to eliminate added sugars, refined carbs, processed foods, and fried and fatty foods.
The below chart outlines the basic rules you should follow in order to promote heart health through diet.
|What to Eat||What to Avoid|
Aside from making the necessary diet changes to help you slow down the progression of heart disease, it’s also important you make other lifestyle changes. These changes include partaking in regular physical activity—you only need about 30 minutes a day to receive benefits—getting adequate sleep and undergoing treatment for any sleep problems, managing your stress levels, not smoking, monitoring your alcohol intake, and managing a healthy weight.