America’s Top Killer
Fifty-year-old Richard was the picture of health, a model citizen, and a family man loved by his children, his church, and his community. But his influence abruptly ceased one Sunday morning when, without warning, he just dropped dead. As the grieving family made funeral arrangements, they awaited a report concerning the mysterious cause of death. The verdict soon arrived: heart attack.
Richard had become the latest victim of the leading cause of death in Western nations: coronary artery disease (CAD). Unfortunately, this sad story is far too common. Even more frightening is the fact that for 30% of those with CAD, the first sign of the disease is sudden death! However, scientific evidence reveals that you don’t have to suffer the same fate. This pamphlet is dedicated to teaching you about CAD and explaining how you can avoid or reverse it.
What is Coronary Artery Disease?
CAD is caused by damage to the lining of the coronary arteries, the small blood vessels which supply blood to the heart. Once damaged, that lining becomes vulnerable to hardening (atherosclerosis), narrowing (from plaque buildup), and ultimately complete blockage. When blood flow to the heart is decreased, the person may experience pain (angina). If a vessel becomes completely blocked, the tissue receiving blood beyond the point of blockage dies. If the area that dies is large enough, the person’s heart may no longer effectively pump blood, dooming the individual to a life of reduced energy and capacity. Still greater damage may result in death. However, even minor heart attacks may be fatal. Damaged heart muscle is prone to abnormal rhythms, which are often the underlying cause of sudden death.
Causes of Damage
What causes damaged arteries?
- Smoking directly damages the coronary arteries, predisposing them to spasms and plaque buildup. Smokers are also more prone to fatal rhythm problems if they have a heart attack.
- High blood pressure further damages the coronary arteries, accelerating the buildup of blockages.
- High cholesterol causes inflammation of the arteries, another factor leading to plaque buildup.
- The elevated blood sugars of diabetes accelerate the process of atherosclerosis (fatty buildup in the arteries).
- An inactive, sedentary lifestyle contributes to the disease process by elevating blood pressure, worsening blood fats, and raising blood sugar levels.
Coronary artery disease can be stopped and even reversed, and this can occur rapidly.
World War II led to a terrible loss of life, but it also provided insights into the CAD process. The horrors and demands of war often caused changes in dietary practices. Some European nations were forced to subsist on plant-based foods rather than their prewar diets that were rich in flesh foods and dairy products. Those countries experienced a dramatic decrease in heart disease.
In 1990, Dr. Dean Ornish and his colleagues showed that a plant-rich diet could be used as part of a comprehensive program to reduce blockages in heart blood vessels. In addition to eating a vegetarian diet, Ornish’s subjects stopped smoking, exercised regularly, practiced stress management techniques, and engaged in group support. You too can experience these benefits. Here’s how:
A smoke-free lifestyle. If you are a smoker, the most important action you can take to lengthen your life and prevent CAD is to stop smoking. In addition to decreasing your risk of CAD—and lessening your risk of death even if you have a heart attack—smoking cessation will decrease your risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis. It will even help your skin stay more youthful!
An active life. With exercise, your heart muscle strengthens. Furthermore, exercise decreases blood fat levels which contribute to heart artery blockage. Exercise also improves HDL (sometimes called “good cholesterol”). HDL is a fascinating compound that actually removes cholesterol from blockages in your arteries. As already mentioned, exercise also helps lower blood sugar and blood pressure.
Overall, active individuals have a 45% decreased risk of developing heart disease. A good goal for many people is to exercise 30 minutes a day. It need not happen all at once—as little as five or ten minutes at a time, spread throughout the day, can start the healing process. Walking, swimming, gardening, and yard work are all excellent exercise. Remember, it’s best to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
A life based on trust in God. It might surprise you, but research on the mummies of Egyptian nobles revealed that they died from many of the same diseases that currently cause death in Western nations. Those diseases include CAD, believed to be the cause of death of the famed Ramses the Great.
Even more fascinating is the story of how God led the Israelites out of Egypt and away from those Egyptian diseases. The plant-based diet advocated in the first chapter of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis 1:29), we have already learned, seems calculated to stop and reverse CAD.
When God led Israel out of Egypt, He also provided a plant-based diet of “manna” (“the bread of heaven,” Psalm 78:24), as well as water to drink (Exodus 17:6). Because they walked to the Promised Land, they enjoyed a built-in exercise program. God promised that if the Hebrews followed this plan, they would experience none of the diseases of the Egyptians (Exodus 15:26). Later, the prophet Daniel followed a similar plan (Daniel 1:11-12), which brought health and longevity to him and to his friends. After just ten days, in what the New England Journal of Medicine called the most ancient scientific study, Daniel and his compatriots showed measurable physical benefits (Daniel 1:15). Within three years, this lifestyle also improved their mental faculties (Daniel 1:20).
Such results shouldn’t be surprising. Over 3,200 scientific studies now bear witness to the positive impact of religion and spirituality on health. A recent review of these studies found that “there is no medical condition that religion and spirituality is more likely to influence than cardiovascular disease.”1
Join a Support Group
Making lifestyle changes alone isn’t easy, so why not try to find a support group that works to stop, reverse, or prevent heart disease? Many hospitals and community groups offer a variety of resources to help those struggling with heart disease and its risk factors. Are you looking for one that includes the spiritual component as well? Why not consider one of the following health centers and programs that take a holistic Christian approach toward dealing with CAD?
Residential (live-in) programs include:
- TakeTEN at www.sthelenacenterforhealth.org
- Weimar Institute at www.newstart.com
- Wildwood Lifestyle Center at www.wildwoodhealth.org
- Uchee Pines Institute at www.ucheepines.org
Community programs include:
- Complete Health Improvement at www.chiphealth.com
- CREATION Health at www.creationhealth.com
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Cover image: ©www.photodune.net