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5 Shocking Things You Didn't Know About America's #1 Killer

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The chief health concern in our country is cardiovascular (heart) disease due to its fierce ranking as the #1 killer in America.  It is a raging war within our society that begins with our nation’s infants and yet the vast majority of Americans still are confused and misinformed about the armament for a cure. 

Simply put, cardiovascular disease is comprised of a diseased heart and arteries and includes heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke (Kenney, 2012).  Cardiovascular disease is caused by inflammation in the vascular system (veins and arteries), more specifically damage to endothelium (the inner most layer of the arterial walls) which causes atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) (Kenney, 2012).   When a heart attack or stroke strikes, it can cause irreversible damage to the brain or heart.  However, the majority of the time, death is the diagnosis.  Kenney soberly indicates “Atherosclerosis [narrowing of the arteries due to plaque (pus/fat and cholesterol) buildup] is not a disease of the aged.  Rather, it is more appropriately classified as a pediatric disease because the pathological changes that lead to atherosclerosis begin in infancy and progress during childhood” (2012, p. 524).  According to countless studies, this is entirely diet related.  Children, let alone adults cannot naturally rid their bodies of the saturated fat and cholesterol through the consumption of animal products (the only types of food that contain cholesterol is from animals and their byproducts, as plant-based foods contain zero cholesterol).

The 80 million people in America who have cardiovascular disease right now (The Heart Foundation), will likely undergo a bypass surgery and/or angioplasty in an attempt to preserve their lives.  However, studies indicate that only 2% of bypass surgeries will actually prolong life and furthermore, zero angioplasties will prevent further heart attacks and prolong life (Robbins, 2011)!  However, the solution of plant-based nutrition (in addition to ceasing smoking) is easily attainable for the 80 million people in American who have cardiovascular disease in addition to the remaining 237 million Americans who live in this country and who are all at grave risk for cardiovascular disease (US Census Bureau).  

As for heart disease being a hereditary disease, that is what the meat industry would love for us to continue to believe.   The agenda of the Beef Eater Guide to Modern Meat is to put out press releases to protect their industry and to confuse the public by saying “Your genetics are a prime determinant of whether you will get atherosclerosis and heart disease.  If your parents and grandparents had it, then you are a candidate; if they didn’t have it, your risk is much lower” (Robbins, 2011, p. 21).  This clearly is not the case.  Dr. Michael Debakey, Director, Cardiovascular Research Center explains that heredity (meaning that family members have high incidences) of heart disease “only constitutes about 5% of the cases.  Most people (who develop heart disease) don’t really have a hereditary disease” (Robbins, 2011, p. 21).  

Doctors Esselstyn and Ornish have been conducting research programs that involve people who had very serious and advanced cardiovascular disease with many prior and repeat cardiac events and surgeries.  In each of the physician’s programs, their practices are very simple and impressively effective.  They place their patients on a low fat plant-based diet which not only does it cut off the packing in of cholesterol and saturated fat into the arteries, it also prevents inflammation and allows the body to naturally repair damaged tissue (Esselstyn, 2007).  This allows the patients’ “rapid restoration of the endothelial cells’ capacity to manufacture nitric oxide, and that, in turn, restore[s] circulation” (Esselstyn, 2007, p. 44).  Within just a couple of weeks of being in the programs, they all became heart attack proof and about 95% of them are alive and well over a decade later (Robbins, 2011). 

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Many of us get caught up with how the outside of our body looks and how others view our physique so we put in hours at the gym to improve our looks or even go as far as forming eating disorders, but we often neglect what the inside looks like by making misinformed food choices.  I would make a bet that if we wore our arteries on the outsides of our bodies, we sure as heck would be more diligent about keeping them clean of pus/plaque through foregoing the consumption of animal products.  We have no more excuses, we are empowered to make a choice and to change.

To recap, 5 things you didn't know about heart disease (America's #1 Killer):

  1. Heart disease begins in infancy

  2. Only 2% of bypass surgeries actually prolong life

  3. Zero (0) angioplasties will prevent further heart attacks and prolong life

  4. Heart disease is only hereditary 5% of the time

  5. Heart disease can be reversed with a low fat plant-based diet!

By Kimberly Garrett, CHC, CPT, FNS, BS


Esselstyn, C. B. (2007). Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. New York: Penguin Group

Kenney, L. W., Wilmore, J. H, and Costill, D. L. (2012). Physiology of Sport and Exercise. 5th ed.

The Heart Foundation. Retrieved October 22, 2013 from http://www.theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts/heart-disease-statistics/ 

Robbins, J. (2011). The Food Revolution. San Francisco: Conari Press

United States Census Bureau. U.S. and World Population Clock. Retrieved October 22, 2013 from http://www.census.gov/popclock/