Updated June 3, 2013
Heart disease is recognized as the number one epidemic in American people. In the United States, approximately 1.25 million heart attacks occur each year. Half the victims of such attacks die before they reach a hospital. These scary statistics deserve your very serious attention.
The cause of the most common form of heart disease is blockage of the arteries that supply the heart muscle. The blockages, results of the condition known as atherosclerosis, are caused by plaques forming along the internal walls of the arteries. Eating rich foods loaded with cholesterol and fats leads to the formation of these plaques. Heredity is also a factor, but should not be over emphasized because at least half the American population is susceptible. Besides, you can do nothing about changing your heredity.
The pain that you feel because of those blocked arteries is the result of an insufficient supply of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the heart muscle. When blood is suddenly shut off from reaching the muscle (usually by the formation of a clot within an artery) then death of a significant part of the heart muscle results. The pain from this obstruction is excruciating. Some imaginative patients have described the experience as feeling something like what they would expect if an elephant sat on their chest.
A low-fat diet begun immediately after an attack improves the circulation to the heart muscle almost overnight by allowing the blood supply to flow more freely. When people eat rich foods, fats enter the blood stream from the gut and coat the blood cells, causing them to stick together in clumps. The sludging that results decreases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues in the heart muscle. Within hours of a change to a starch-based diet, when fats are no longer present to enter the blood stream, the oxygen content of the blood increases, blood flow improves, and the chest pain diminishes or disappears. Keep in mind that the prime reason for bypass surgery and angioplasty is the relief of the chest pain, since neither intervention, in the long run, can really save lives. When the pain is gone (or at least tolerable) the need for these surgeries is removed. By no strained coincidence, the low-fat diet that relieves the chest pain is the same no-cholesterol, low-fat diet that allows the sick arteries to heal by reversing the processes of atherosclerosis.
Following the dietary change, drugs that were intended to reduce chest pain should be decreased gradually in dosage and then discontinued entirely as soon as possible.
Believe what your chest pain is trying to tell you: “You are on the verge of dying of a dietary disease. HELP!” Your heart is pleading with every twinge of pain for relief from the lard you’re shoveling in to your belly with fork and spoon, or your greasy fingers, three or more times a day. Have you noticed how the chest pains become worse after you’ve gulped down a fat-filled meal? Or chomped upon a thick juicy steak?
Change to a starch-based diet, at once! In the few cases where diet is not enough, use drugs to relieve the chest pain. If all these fail, only then should you agree to allow surgery for the sake of relieving that terrible pain–so that once again you can function at the level of activity you consider best for you. Heart disease demands that you use all the cautions and skills that you have ever learned, or even heard about, as a sensible and thinking person trying to be in charge of your health. When you consult members of the medical profession for help with your diseased heart, remember that you are dealing with a big business whose enthusiastic employees, especially the cardiologists and bypass surgeons, in too many cases, are talented pitchmen who can expect to gain more wealth from each transaction they succeed in promoting.
If you are on medication for chest pain already and you are about to start or have started the McDougall Program, ask yourself, “do I need less angina medication? If you have had no chest pain recently, then your doctor may reduce the dosage of pills and patches you will need, especially if you have felt weak or dizzy and your blood pressure has been low. I usually treat my patients with angina with short acting nitroglycerin (under the tongue) tablets (NTG 1/150), and discontinue the swallowed pills (Isordil, Cardizem) and patches (Nitroglycerin) shortly after the start of the Program. This way they only take medication when they need it. Beta-blockers (e.g.: Inderal, Lopressor) must be stopped slowly because sudden withdrawal can provoke chest pain and possibly a heart attack (as a general rule, I cut the dosage in half every three days, until the pill size is so small the next sensible option is to quit altogether.
See McDougall’s Medicine–A Challenging Second Opinion for further information on the treatment of heart disease.
For a complete discussion of cholesterol and heart disease see “The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart” Dutton 1996 in your bookstores or order through our website.
DeWood, M. Prevalence of total coronary occlusion during the early hours of transmural myocardial infarction. N Engl J Med 303:897, 1980
Antiplatelet Trialists’ Collaboration. Secondary prevention of vascular disease by prolonged antiplatelet treatment. Br Med J 296:320, 1988
Orme, M. Aspirin all round? Br Med J 296:307, 1988
Yetiv, J. Clinical applications of fish oils. JAMA 260:665, 1988
Glomset, J. Fish, fatty acids, and human health. N Engl J Med 312:1253, 1985
Herold, P. Fish oil consumption and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease: a comparison of findings from animal and human feeding trials (review). Am J Clin Nutr 43:566, 1986
Harris, W. Effects of a low saturated fat, low cholesterol fish oil supplement in hypertriglyceridemic patients–a placebo-controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 109:465, 1988
Glauber, H. Adverse metabolic effect of omega-3 fatty acids in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Ann Intern Med 108:663, 1988
Weiner, M. Cholesterol in foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (letter). N Engl J Med 315:833, 1986
Simopoulos, A. Purslane: a terrestrial source of omeg-3 fatty acid (letter). N Engl J Med 315:833, 1986
Hopkins, G. Polyunsaturated fatty acids as promoters of mammary carcinogenesis induced in Sprague-Dawley rats by 7,12-Dimethylbenz[a]anthracene. JNCI 66:517, 1981
Foran, J. Increased fish consumption may be risky (letter). JAMA 262:28, 1989
Olsen, S. Intake of marine fat, rich in (n-3)-polyunsaturated fatty acids, may increase birth weight by prolonging gestation. Lancet 2:367, 1986
Barnard, R. Effects of a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet on serum lipids, platelet aggregation and thrombaxane formation. Prostaglandins Leukot Med 26:241, 1987
Saunders, T. Dietary fat and platlet function. Clin Sci 65:343, 1983
Meade, T. Hypercoagulability and ischemic heart disease. Blood Rev 1:2, 1987