Meat linked to heart disease

A Meat-Based Diet Is Dangerous for Your Heart's Health

The heart is arguably the hardest working muscle in the body, pumping blood, oxygen, and nutrients to all the body’s organs. A healthy heart is a prescription for a healthy body.

Eating animal-based foods impairs the heart’s ability to do its job. Meat and dairy products are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. As these fatty substances, or “plaques,” build up inside the walls of arteries, blood flow to all areas of the body is impeded. This artery damage is called atherosclerosis. It often begins very early in life and develops gradually. When too little blood reaches various regions of the body, normal immune systems are impaired, setting people up for a number of diseases, most notably heart disease. Heart disease is the number one health problem in the United States today and, according to the American Heart Association, the single leading cause of death. Most heart disease is diet-related—caused by animal products. Research shows a highly significant correlation between the consumption of even small amounts of animal-based foods and the increasing prevalence of heart disease.

A major study published in February 2005 reconfirmed the link between meat consumption and heart problems. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that among the 29,000 participants, those who ate the most meat were also at the greatest risk for heart disease. The researchers also reported that a high intake of protein from vegetable sources like tofu, nuts, and beans lowers our risk of heart disease by 30 percent. Dr. Linda E. Kelemen, the scientist who headed the study, told reporters, “Not all proteins are equal”—while vegetable protein can help keep our hearts healthy, eating animal protein can put us in an early grave.

Tell-tale signs of heart disease include impotence, swollen feet and ankles, and shortness of breath. The most common symptom occurs when atherosclerosis prevents blood from flowing to the heart and the victim experiences chest pains. This is called “ischemia,” and it’s a warning sign that coronary heart disease has progressed to a dangerous point. Eventually, a heart attack results from the lack of blood flow to the heart. Sadly, 60 percent of children and young adults have early atherosclerotic damage that can lead to heart disease. And according to the National Center for Health Statistics and the American Heart Association, about 5.8 million men and 6.1 million women alive today have suffered from a heart attack or acute chest pain.

Mortality rates for heart disease are higher than those of all forms of cancer combined, and more than 700,000 people die from the disease every year.
Studies show that people who experience frequent heart attacks often have high cholesterol levels; many also smoke or have high blood pressure. When these factors are controlled, heart attacks become rare. Foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as meat and dairy products, are the major contributors to high cholesterol levels. In fact, animal products are the only sources of dietary cholesterol.

Here’s the good news: Now that we know what causes heart attacks, we can prevent them. Studies have shown that a vegan (pure vegetarian) diet—rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—can stop and even reverse heart disease. People following a plant-based diet have 2.5 times fewer cardiac events, including heart attack, stroke, bypass surgery, and angioplasty. By switching to a vegetarian diet, you can significantly reduce and even eliminate your chances of dying from heart disease.

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