What Doctors Don't Tell You About Heart Disease
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What Doctors Don't Tell You About Heart DiseaseLynne McTaggart debunks the myth that heart health can only be controlled by drugs and surgery
Conventional medicine is largely built upon the idea that any damage done to the body, especially the heart and its arteries, can’t be undone when we’re adults, and that symptoms can only be managed by drugs such as statins and antihypertensive agents until surgery becomes necessary.
This dismal view boosts drug company revenues, as the vast majority of their income comes from drugs that manage chronic and intractable health problems such as cardiovascular disease.
We might have been the architect of our own fate through poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking, but we can’t also be the dismantler of the edifice of ill health that we’ve created for ourselves.
This belief, which sustains the pharmaceutical industry, has been confounded by two important studies that have a simple take- home message: it’s never too late to heal yourself, particularly of heart disease. The small print is almost as heartening: the body is a dynamic, self-healing system.
Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, have concluded that anyone of any age who adopts the following five healthy lifestyle choices can control – and perhaps even reverse – their heart disease:
1. Keep a healthy body weight
2. Don’t smoke
3. Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity five times a week
4. Don’t drink more than one alcoholic drink a day if you’re a woman, or more than two if you’re a man
5. Eat a healthy diet, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Adopting all five points and sticking with them for 20 years or more can control and even reverse the symptoms of coronary artery disease such as calcification and thickening of the arteries.
Each one of the five lifestyle changes reduces the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, people who take up unhealthy habits or lifestyles, such as becoming obese or a smoker, will see their odds of having heart disease increase.
The Northwestern researchers assessed the impact of the five healthy lifestyle choices listed above in 3,538 young adults aged 18 to 30 who, despite their relative youth, were already showing signs of heart disease and atherosclerosis (arterial plaques). Their symptoms were only starting to appear, but didn’t yet require drugs or other medical intervention.
After being monitored for 20 years, the cardio health of 25 per cent of these people had improved, while the 40 per cent who’d abandoned one or more of the options saw their condition worsen.
These findings debunk two of medicine’s myths, says lead researcher Bonnie Spring. ‘The first myth is that it’s nearly impossible to change patients’ behaviour.
‘Yet we found that 25 per cent of adults made healthy lifestyle changes on their own. The second myth is that the damage has been done – adulthood is too late for healthy lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of developing coronary artery disease. Clearly, that’s incorrect. Adulthood is not too late for healthy behaviour changes to help the heart.’
Conversely, it would appear, adulthood is not the time to start unhealthy habits either.
The bottom line is that it’s never too late. ‘You’re not doomed,’ says Spring, ‘if you’ve hit adulthood and acquired some bad habits. You can still make a change and it will have a benefit for your heart.’
Editor's note: Learn more about what doctors won't tell you in this video by author Lynne McTaggart: