Sunday, March 11, 2012


This past week I began reading Cholesterol Protection for Life, by Joel Fuhrman. The book is a wealth of information for those concerned with stopping the progression of heart disease--such as myself. For the past year, it has been my goal to reduce my total cholesterol to around 140 mg/dL and my LDL cholesterol to 70 mg/dL or below.  Since I am now eating a plant-based vegan diet (and have been for almost a year) my numbers are dropping and I am closer to the goal I have set for myself. Hopefully soon I will be able to reach my goal and know that my heart disease is no longer progressing. 
I thought it was interesting when I read the following from Fuhrman’s book: 
“It is virtually impossible to eat the American diet without eventually developing a serious disease. Autopsy studies on adult Americans who die in car accidents show that over 95% of them have atherosclerotic heart disease. Heart disease and strokes kill over half of all Americans, and the only reason they don’t kill the other half is because cancer or some other illness kills them first.”

After reading that I decided to do a little research of my own and found the following information:
  • According to the US Census the amount of individuals who died in a car crash in 2008 equaled 45.3 million people.
  • According to the US National Vital Statistics in 2008 Heart disease was the #1 leading cause of death in the United States. On that same list of 15 leading causes diabetes was #7 and hypertension was #13. 
With that said, let’s talk about three major components of the American diet which I have affectionately labeled The Three Amigos: Fat, Sugar, & Sodium
The typical American diet is low in nutrition and high in fat, sugar, and sodium. These three components wreck havoc with our bodies and health. It is well known that the majority of Americans are literally sacrificing their health while overeating--simply death by food. And I’m not just talking about overeating in the sense of portion control, but also in the sense of fat, sugar & sodium. All of this contributes to the disease and mortality rates in our country.  
Does Diet Really Matter
Heck yes it matters! 
FAT - Eating too much fat leads to weight gain and obesity as well as heart disease. Too much fat raises the total cholesterol level and is an open door for a host of other problems such as cholesterol-related diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. 
“ the united states more than 40% of the population dies of heart attacks. Almost all American adults demonstrate significant coronary artery disease. If you eat the standard American diet (high in saturated fats and animal products), you will inevitably develop high cholesterol and the diseases that go with it. …even small intakes of foods of animal origin are associated with significant heart disease mortality rates.” - Joel Fuhrman, Cholesterol Protection for Life -
SUGAR - In the United States sugar can be found in practically EVERYTHING that is packaged or processed. As a result, Americans are ingesting tons of foods that are “flavor enhanced” with sugar and designed to foster their craving of sweets. In fact, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) consumption has gone up by 4000% since the 1970s. Studies have shown that HFCS interrupts the hormone Leptin which provides a signal in  the brain letting us know when we are full (Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. Copyright © 2012)

No wonder there is currently an estimated 40% of the people in the United States who suffer from obesity and diabetes. And projected trends estimate that by 2020 52% of the population will be diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Again, almost every processed food in our country includes sugar as one of its primary ingredients. Dr. Dwight Lundell, M.D. talks about what happens in our bodies at the cellular level whenever we ingest sugary foods or highly processed carbohydrates (simple sugars), “Imagine spilling syrup on your keyboard and you have a visual of what occurs inside the cell. When we consume simple carbohydrates such as sugar, blood sugar rises rapidly. In response, your pancreas secretes insulin whose primary  purpose is to drive sugar into each cell where it is stored for energy. If the cell is full and does not need glucose, it is rejected to avoid extra sugar gumming up the works.”  
SODIUM - Estimates are that 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet. By eating too much sodium one increases their chances of developing high blood pressure and its associated diseases. Where is all this sodium?  The major sources are processed, prepared foods along with the salt we add to food during cooking or at meals. 
The American Heart Association reports that 76.4 million people in the US ages 20 and older have high blood pressure. That means 1 in 3 adults.  
Just how does high blood pressure cause death? Well, simply put high blood pressure damages the inner lining of your arteries and causes them to narrow. Then when fats try to pass through the arteries they can’t and a blockage occurs possibly resulting in heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure can also cause kidney failure, dementia, eye damage, and aneurysms all due to blocking of the blood to your heart, kidneys, brain, arms & legs. 
Escaping the Three Amigos
The main way of escaping health problems associated with the American diet is to dramatically change your eating. All the diseases listed above are diet-induced diseases and preventable. Across the board, the best diet for improved health and longevity is a low fat plant-based diet which includes plenty of whole foods high in fiber and nutrition. The focus of this diet is on nutrition and the beneficial/healing aspects each food provides.  
My Personal Cholesterol Numbers
For me, I am now incorporating as many raw foods as I can in my diet each day. I am trying to focus on foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories. Raw foods contain nutrients and phytochemicals which are often lost during the cooking process. Additionally, the fiber in raw foods offer other health benefits along with helping to lower cholesterol. 
Below I have listed my cholesterol levels at various times. It is interesting to note that my eating has changed over the past 2 years and my cholesterol levels show the differences. 
The first set of numbers were while I was eating primarily a Mediterranean-style diet. Many people consider this type of diet “heart healthy.” I do not. The fact that my total cholesterol & LDL levels were elevated was anything but heart healthy. I can remember being so upset that my LDL was elevated and as a response the doctor doubled my prescription of the statin drug I was on to compensate where my diet had failed.
The second set of numbers is after eating a vegetarian diet which still included eggs, cheese, and added oils. My overall total cholesterol did drop significantly, however, my LDL didn’t change that much from my previous Mediterranean-style diet. 
The third set of numbers is after switching to a low-fat plant-based vegan diet. No more cheese or eggs, and avoiding added oils. As you can see my LDL dropped significantly and my HDL went up. I know I am on the right track!  In April I will have my numbers checked again and will let you know my progress as I am incorporating more & more raw foods into my diet. I am excited to be so close to my LDL goal (which is 70 mg/dL or below)!

Mediterranean (3/3/11)
Vegetarian (10/11/11)
Vegan (2/26/12)
Total Cholesterol: 197
Total Cholesterol: 159
Total Cholesterol: 153
LDL : 113
LDL : 93
LDL : 79
HDL: 80
HDL: 44
HDL: 56
Triglycerides: ?
Triglycerides: 112
Triglycerides: 91
TC/HDL Ratio:  ?
TC/HDL Ratio:  3.6
TC/HDL Ratio:  2.7
If you are here, reading my post, hopefully you have made a decision to take control of your health and what you eat. That’s great!  We can walk this path together and help each other. I highly recommend reading the books posted on my blog. There are links to them if you would like to purchase them. 
Just know this, the standard American diet is NOT a diet of health and it results most often in disease and death. The other side is that a plant-based vegan diet rich in nutrients will offer you health and well-being. 

If you are interested in reading Cholesterol Protection for Life click on this link and register for your free e-book
Happy & healthy eating!

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