A heart attack (or myocardial infarction) occurs when there is lack of blood flow to the heart, leading to damage and death of the heart muscle. This is almost always due to atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries due to cholesterol plaque build-up and inflammation. Plaques can also rupture, causing clot formation leading to blockage of blood flow.
A Nutritarian diet and lifestyle can significantly lower and eliminate the risk of having a heart attack. It is estimated that 15.4 million Americans ages 20 and older have coronary heart disease. Approximately every 44 seconds, an American will have a heart attack. There are greater than 500,000 new cases of heart attacks each year.1 These numbers will continue to climb unless drastic changes are made to the way most people eat.
Chest pain is the main symptom of a heart attack. The pain can radiate to the left arm or jaw and usually increases with activity. This can be accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue, however, in certain cases, such as in women or diabetics, standard symptoms may not be present making it difficult to diagnose. Many medical conditions (e.g., acid reflux, esophageal spasms, costochondritis, pneumonia) can mimic cardiac chest pain. Evaluation involves history, physical, EKG, and blood tests to look for damaged cardiac muscle tissue.
Medical conditions that increase plaque burden and cause inflammation in the body will increase the risk of having a heart attack, however, most of the risk factors listed below are caused by the disease-promoting diets most people in the modern world eat. These are, therefore, secondary risk factors, not primary, meaning that obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, as well as diabetes and insulin resistance all can resolve with adherence to a Nutritarian diet. Plus, treating these secondary risk factors with drugs is relatively ineffective because the underlying etiology is not adequately addressed. Traditional risk factors include:
Though a heart attack is a medical emergency and needs urgent medical attention to potentially survive and reduce the amount of myocardium that is damaged, all patients, once stabilized, should adopt a Nutritarian diet as primary treatment and to prevent future cardiac events.
An exercise routine is essential in promoting cardiac health. Routines should be catered to the individual, as some patients may experience episodes of chest pain with aggressive exercise, so some limitations may be necessary.
Elimination of tobacco in conjunction with a Nutritarian diet is necessary to reverse atherosclerosis and reverse the risk of cardiovascular disease.3
* Foods containing at least 0.4 grams per serving of plant sterols, taken twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 0.8 grams, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. LDL Biotect provides 0.54 grams of plant sterols in each two-capsule serving.
The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)
I had a mild heart attack a few days ago. I am 48 years old, and I am more than 100 pounds overweight. What can I do now to make sure I never have another heart attack? I would appreciate any guidance you can provide.
The most important thing you can do to save your life is to lose at least eight pounds each month for the next year. That means follow the program consistently day after day, without faltering. Whether it is a holiday, a birthday or a stressful day, just do it; follow a Nutritarian eating style no matter what (you can find guidelines on following a Nutritarian diet in my books The End of Diabetes or The End of Dieting.
Eat G-BOMBS almost every day, and make it simple to stay on track: make a few salad dressings you like and use a variety of raw vegetables in your salads, including red cabbage, collards or kale, onion, arugula, and tomatoes. Top your salad with homemade dressing from my recipes and (no salt added) beans. Then, make plenty of lightly steamed string beans, artichokes, broccoli, and kale. Make fresh, no-salt tomato sauce with fresh tomato, garlic, onion, and basil. Let it simmer on a low flame for hours and use it as a topping for cooked vegetables and a base for dressings. Mix water, sautéed onion, mushrooms, and spinach, and use it cold all week on salads. Use frozen berries. Also, visit the Vitamin Advisor page on my website for guidelines on appropriate supplements to take.
Don’t forget about exercise: when you wake up in the morning, have a full glass of water and get out of the house and walk in the fresh air for at least 30 minutes every day. You can change your whole life, and never have heart disease again, starting now. Many people have found this is easy, delicious, and fun, especially when they have the camaraderie and communication with others doing it too. Consider joining the Member Center at DrFuhrman.com for more information, motivation, and support.