The president of the American College of Cardiology, Kim A. Williams, M.D., recently penned an article for MedPage Today talking about why he decided to eat a plant-based diet. Due to his own rising cholesterol level, Williams became vegan. He also mentioned the benefits such as a far lower chance of heart disease, stroke and other serious illnesses.
Vegans actually live seven years longer than those who eat a meat-based diet. This article enlightens us on one of the fastest growing trends in medicine today, lifestyle medicine. We usually think of lifestyle choices as a means of preventing disease down the road. But this shifts our focus to using these choices to treat a condition someone already has. Oftentimes we think of advances in medicine in terms of technology or breakthrough medications, but different awareness, perspectives and focuses are just as important.
Doctors are finding out more and more how simple lifestyle changes can have a big impact in our overall life, health and well-being. The University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and other academic medical centers along with a nonprofit called the Preventive Medicine Research Institute conducted controlled and randomized trials. What they found was lifestyle choices alone can reverse cardiovascular disease and other serious illnesses.
Some of the lifestyle changes recommended include a plant-based whole foods diet that is low in sugar and fat, adopting healthful stress management techniques such as meditation or yoga, and strengthening communal ties and social support networks to increase the love and intimacy in one’s life. These simple, low-cost, low-tech lifestyle decisions are scientifically proven through state-of-the-art, high tech research. This group published their first study in 1979. During that pilot study, which took place for 30 days, participants saw a 90% reduction in angina. A 1983 randomized, controlled trial found a 91% reduction in angina through healthy lifestyle changes. In 1990 the same group initiated the Lifestyle Heart Trial. This is the first trial to prove that through lifestyle changes alone one could reverse serious coronary heart disease.
In all of these studies participants were asked to make big lifestyle changes, but were given the resources to do so. Eat a healthy diet, manage stress in a healthy manner. Don’t smoke and consume alcohol in moderation. Get enough sleep and exercise for 30-45 minutes per day at least three times per week. Lastly, develop and deepen your friendships, romantic relationship and familial relationships. Engaging in this practice of lifestyle medicine on a daily basis will help you live a long, healthy and happy life.