Mini fact sheet: Heart health

A vegan diet helps protect your heart health

Your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood around your body through a network of arteries. Problems arise when arteries are blocked by the build-up of plaques made of cholesterol and other fatty substances in blood. These cause the arteries to narrow and prevent blood flowing. This is called atherosclerosis. A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart is prevented and a stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked. Heart disease and stroke are a major cause of death in the UK and worldwide but most cases are completely preventable. 

What increases your risk?

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Bad diet high in meat and dairy
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Diabetes

You can’t change your family history but you can stop smoking, take exercise and changing your diet reduces your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity AND diabetes. 

Beat blood pressure

Known as the ‘silent killer’, high blood pressure may go unnoticed but, left untreated, it increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. A low-fat vegan diet can significantly lower your blood pressure.

Combat cholesterol

Cholesterol is only found in animal foods – high levels in eggs, liver, kidneys and prawns. Plant foods (including nuts and avocados) contain none. But most of the cholesterol in your blood is produced by your liver. What causes this? Saturated fat! The type found in meat pies, sausages, fatty cuts of meat, butter, ghee, lard, cream, hard cheese, cakes, biscuits and foods containing coconut and palm oil. To cut your cholesterol, reduce saturated fat and include cholesterol-lowering foods such as oats and soya protein. 

Aim for 30g of fibre a day 

Eating plenty of fibre helps lower your risk of heart disease. Every day try to include: 

  • 3-4 portions of cereals and grains (Oats, wholemeal bread, wholegrain pasta and brown rice)
  • 8-10 portions of fruit and vegetables
  • 2-3 portions of pulses (beans, peas, lentils and soya), nuts, nut butters or seeds

A note on nuts

A small palm-sized (30 gram) portion of unsalted nuts a day can help lower the risk of heart disease without piling on the pounds.

Achieve a healthy weight

Obesity increases your risk of diabetes – which can lead to heart disease. A low fat, wholefood vegan diet can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.

Meet the experts

  • Dr Dean Ornish, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, uses an almost entirely wholefood vegan diet on severe heart disease patients with astounding results, reversing disease. Medicare now covers his program for reversing heart disease.
  • Dr Caldwell Esselstyne, former surgeon and Chairman of the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Reversal Program at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, argues that conventional treatments focus only on the symptoms of heart disease, not the cause. He’s published extensive research showing how wholefood vegan diets can prevent heart disease. 

Changing your diet can help prevent and reverse heart disease