Coronary Heart Disease

Now the leading cause of death in Europe with Britain at the top of the league table. It kills one in five men and one in six women (9).

The heart is a pump which circulates blood around the body. Like other muscles, the beating heart needs oxygen and other nutrients to provide energy for its work. This is the job of the coronary arteries, which supply the heart muscles with oxygenated blood. If any of these vessels are blocked then the heart’s blood supply will be interrupted. Permanent damage to the heart can occur – in fact the affected part can die.

In the following weeks this dead muscle is replaced by scar tissue which, unlike the rest of the heart, can’t contract and the heart therefore becomes less efficient. If the damage is severe enough it can be fatal. Heart attacks can be silent and painless or they can be extremely painful and deadly.

With angina, the blood vessels supplying the heart are partially, rather than fully, blocked. They will allow enough blood to the heart when a person is resting but not enough to provide sufficient oxygen for physical activity, which can result in acute pain (11).

How arteries become blocked is explained in the following sections – Cholesterol, Clogged Arteries.

Just about every large-scale study of people and their day-to-day living (epidemiological studies) have found vegetarians to be considerably less at risk of heart disease. The percentage by which the risk drops varies from study to study but many estimate it between 25 and 50 per cent (12, 13, 14). Recent estimates put a figure of 25 per cent lower mortality (death rate) from heart disease in vegetarians (15).

All the main researchers are in agreement, that animal products are the principal cause of degenerative diseases. What is surprising is how quickly the health advantages of a plant-based diet disappear once people start to consume animal products as their national prosperity grows.

Heart disease and cancers are soaring globally and they don’t only affect the rich West. Four out of five chronic disease deaths today occur in low and middle income countries. Mauritius is a good example. In the 1940s, only two per cent of the population died from heart disease but by 1980 it had dramatically increased to 45 per cent (WHO).

Despite the astounding nature of these findings and their implication for the health of the nation – all nations – governments still refuse to act on them with any real enthusiasm.

There are other factors involved in heart disease so if you wish to avoid one, as well as changing to a predominantly plant-based diet, there are other actions you should take. Cut down or cut out alcohol, stop smoking, cut down on salt (sodium) – which essentially means cutting down on processed foods – and increase magnesium intake (found in green vegetables, nuts and wholegrains). Exercise is important not just for the exercise it gives the heart and lungs but because the lymph system, the body’s self-defence mechanism, works far more efficiently when the pulse rate is raised. Exercise also helps fight stress.

In a statement which should worry everyone in the West, the WHO says that most coronary heart disease happens to people in the medium risk category. So, in the wealthy countries of the world, virtually the whole population can be considered at risk. Such a situation, they say, begs for mass intervention designed to protect the entire population rather than just treating individuals at very high risk. The only way that can be achieved is through diet. It isn’t happening.