Vasculature of the Heart
take control of your

Heart health

 

Do you know how to tackle the #1 killer worldwide? [1]

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What can we do to stop the worlds biggest killer of men and women - cardiovascular disease (CVD)? We seem too insignificant to make a dent in such a colossal opponent, but this disease has the ability to be tamed and we want to show you how. In 2017 CVD killed 17.8 million people (2) and cancer came a not so close second at 9.6 million. So CVD wiped out the equivalent population of Switzerland and Austria in one year (3). 

 

The biggest reason for this is coronary heart disease which often leads to a heart attack and is the biggest cause of premature death (4). The dominance of CVD over the people of our planet is shown by a simple stat; CVD kills more people than if you were to combine the total deaths of the next 8 highest causes of death after cancer. This list includes respiratory disease and diabetes, demonstrating that tackling CVD head-on would have the single most positive impact on death and suffering, and change the world for the better, forever. 

 

 

 

Coronary Heart Disease (the most deadly form of CVD (4)) claimed the life of my Dad, at the age of 54. Following his sudden passing, I felt overwhelmed by feelings of utter disconnect from the world and how trivial it all felt when you can just have everything taken away from you at any moment. I felt hopeless. I had never considered I could lead a life that would be cut short just as my Dad's had, he’ll never meet his Grandchildren, never hold them, make them laugh or give them a cuddle when they fall over. Just the same fate as his father who died at the same age, from the same condition.

 

As his children, the youngest of whom was 7 at the time, we were left without a role model, without a sounding board for ideas or a Dad to console us when things didn't go our way. After months of feeling dejected, I decided I had had enough and I was going to take action to avoid following in my family's footsteps. 

 

I wanted to take control over my life and I was willing to do anything and learn anything to ensure that. I started reading; reading every blog, article and post that I could on heart disease - how it works, why it happens and more importantly - how it can be stopped. I haven’t stopped, and what I've learned since 2012 impacts every single one of us. ​

So cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer of men and women worldwide and the heart disease that causes the majority of these deaths are mostly avoidable. You’re saying my Dad could have had a very good chance of meeting his grandchildren and living a longer life by following some lifestyle changes?  That's right, the science states that healthy lifestyle choices may reduce the risk of heart attack by 81-94%, [6-11] whereas pharmacotherapies reduce it by only 20-30% [12].

 

When I found this out, and that this information was stuck in scientific research papers that we rarely hear about, let alone read, it angered me. Millions of lives worldwide are being stopped too early. 

 

For those like my Dad, sudden death from heart disease is commonly the first and last symptom [9]. Imagine the first symptom of other common illness being fatal, a runny nose, for example, being the first symptom of a cold. This is the savage reality of CVD and means we need to take action before our arteries take destructive action against us.

 


 

 

So if you’re over the age of 10, following the healthy lifestyle choices at the top may help to stop and reverse the CVD already developing in your arteries. If you know and care about at least 3 other people then changing some ways that you live gives you a very good chance of avoiding becoming the 1 in 4 people dying from CVD. You have the power to meet your grandchildren, to enable a child to have a Mum or Dad for a bit longer and help others do the same. Don’t become a statistic - live your life on your terms and take back control.

 

The cost to our NHS is alarming, 9 billion pounds a year is spent on CVD [12]; imagine preventing up to 80% of that cost. We can do that together by simply taking responsibility for our own health to protect the NHS. The good that could be done with that money is unimaginable, and the crazy thing is, it’s there for the taking. The NHS is the fifth biggest employer in the world [35], and let's say we were able to save just 10% of this cost. By taking responsibility of our own health we could give the 470,000 nurses and doctors [36] a £2,000 pay rise, each.

My Dad was a slim, non-smoker who ate and drank everything in moderation and exercised at least twice a week. But it's not what's on the outside that counts. Unknown to him, his arteries to his heart were 90% blocked. This doesn’t happen overnight, this is a build-up over a lifetime. CVD starts in childhood [13] with fatty streaks in arteries being found in the majority of ten-year-olds [14].

 
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The overwhelming majority of evidence suggests that focusing on the above risk factors has by far the largest impact on hitting that 80% risk reduction.

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There are also risk factors we can't change such as age, ethnic background, family history of heart disease and genetics, being aware of these is vital but focusing on the ones you can change is powerful.

 

So why is this site focused more on diet than any other risk factor? A plant-based diet, paired with addressing other lifestyle factors is the only method that has been proven to not just stop, but reverse heart disease (15-19). Being a public health professional I found out what has the biggest impact so that I can make the largest difference possible. To put this into perspective all the modifiable lifestyle factors in yellow above are directly impacted by what we put on our plates.

 

Suboptimal diet was responsible for an estimated 1 in 5 premature deaths globally from 1990 to 2016 [21]. CVD was the leading cause of these diet-related deaths which totalled at 10 million [22], that's almost twice the population of Scotland. That’s 10 million people who may not have had time to say goodbye to their loved ones. That’s 10 million families destroyed and left broken, just as I was, after the impact of this disease. That’s 10 million people who could have given themselves a future by just swapping what they put on their plate. 

 

 

 

 

 

I never thought I would lead the lifestyle I do; I remember being at University mocking my housemate for eating a vegetarian diet and how times have changed. Like me and so many others, you can continue to follow the 'everything in moderation' rule. Eat a moderately healthy diet, do a moderate amount of exercise, etc. But in a world where the leading killer is largely down to lifestyle choices, moderation kills.

 

Now I follow the overwhelming consensus of evidence, eating a mainly whole food plant-based diet, getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week and actively optimising the risk factors we can all take control of (see above). If the science changes, so will I. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favourite foods were chicken wings, BBQ ribs and big juicy burgers, but none of that matters to me now. These short term wins pale in comparison to the chance of living a long, healthy life, a life where I potentially get to be a big part of my Grandchildren's lives. A life I want for anyone reading this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By supporting one another in changing our lifestyle for the better, together we can dramatically reduce the destructiveness of the worlds biggest killer of men and women. 

 

Don’t become a statistic like my Dad did, take back control, be responsible for your own health and live to see your Grandchildren.

In no way is this information meant to replace the advice given by your doctor, always follow the advice of your health professional. Inform your doctor if you are making any large changes to your lifestyle. 

As always, don't just take our word for it, have a read through some of the evidence we use which is all referenced below. 

Evidence

1] BHF analysis of latest UK mortality statistics: ONS/NRS/NISRA (2018 data) https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics [accessed 18/06/2020]
2] Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network. Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 (GBD 2017) Results. Seattle, United States: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), 2018
3] United Nations Population Division. World Population Prospects: 2019 Revision. Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL [accessed 21.06.2020].
4] World Health Organization, 2018, http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death
5] Akesson A, Weismayer C, Newby PK, Wolk A. Combined effect of low-risk dietary and lifestyle behaviors in primary prevention of myocardial infarction in women. Arch Intern Med 2007;167(19):2122–7. 
6] Yusuf S, Hawken S, Ounpuu S, et al. Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case control study. Lancet 2004;364(9438):937–52. 
7] Ford ES, Bergmann MM, Kröger J, Schienkiewitz A, Weikert C, Boeing H. Healthy living is the best revenge: findings from the European Prospective Investig. 
8] Chiuve SE, McCullough ML, Sacks FM, Rimm EB. Healthy lifestyle factors in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease among men: benefits among users and nonusers of lipid-lowering and antihypertensive medications. Circulation 2006;114(2):160-7
9] Myerburg, R.J. and Junttila, M.J., 2012. Sudden cardiac death caused by coronary heart disease. Circulation, 125(8), pp.1043-1052.
10] Stampfer MJ, Hu FB, Manson JE, et al. Primary prevention of coronary heart disease in women through diet and lifestyle. N Engl J Med 2000; 343: 16–22.
11] Chiuve, S.E., Rexrode, K.M., Spiegelman, D., Logroscino, G., Manson, J.E. and Rimm, E.B., 2008. Primary prevention of stroke by healthy lifestyle. Circulation, 118(9), p.947.
12] BHF analysis of European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2017, EHN (www.ehnheart.org/cvd-statistics/cvd-statistics-2017.html) [accessed 18/06/2020].
13] C. A. McMahan, S. S. Gidding, G. T. Malcom, R. E. Tracy, J. P. Strong, H. C. McGill Jr. Pathobiological determinants of atherosclerosis in youth risk scores are associated with early and advanced atherosclerosis. Pediatrics 2006 118(4):1447 - 1455.
14] J. P. Strong, H. C. McGill. The pediatric aspects of atherosclerosis. J Atheroscler Res 1969 9(3):251 - 265.
15] Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA 1998;280(23):2001–7. 
16] Ornish D, Brown SE, Scherwitz LW, et al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. Lancet 1990;336(8708):129–33.
17] Esselstyn CB Jr. Updating a 12-year experience with arrest and reversal therapy for coronary heart disease (an overdue requiem for palliative cardiology). Am J Cardiol 1999;84(3):339–41, A8.
18] Daubenmier JJ, Weidner G, Sumner MD, et al. The contribution of changes in diet, exercise, and stress management to changes in coronary risk in women and men in the multisite cardiac lifestyle intervention program. Ann Behav Med 2007;33(1):57–68. 
19] Frattaroli J, Weidner G, Merritt-Worden TA, Frenda S, Ornish D. Angina pectoris and atherosclerotic risk factors in the multisite cardiac lifestyle intervention program. Am J Cardiol 2008;101(7):911–8.]
20] Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Lancet. 2019;393(10184):1958-1972.
21] A.A. Abajobir, K.H. Abate, C. Abbafati, et al. Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 84 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 Lancet, 390 (2017), pp. 1345-1422].
22] Afshin, A., Sur, P.J., Fay, K.A., Cornaby, L., Ferrara, G., Salama, J.S., Mullany, E.C., Abate, K.H., Abbafati, C., Abebe, Z. and Afarideh, M., 2019. Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet, 393(10184), pp.1958-1972.
23] Teo KK, Ounpuu S, Hawken S, et al. Tobacco use and risk of myocardial infarction in 52 countries in the INTERHEART study: a casecontrol study. Lancet. 2006;368:647–58.
24] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2013 May 3; 62(17):326-30
25] Steptoe, A. and Kivimäki, M., 2012. Stress and cardiovascular disease. Nature Reviews Cardiology, 9(6), p.360.
26] Arnett, D.K., Blumenthal, R.S., Albert, M.A., Buroker, A.B., Goldberger, Z.D., Hahn, E.J., Himmelfarb, C.D., Khera, A., Lloyd-Jones, D., McEvoy, J.W. and Michos, E.D., 2019. 2019 ACC/AHA guideline on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 74(10), pp.e177-e232.
27] Koliaki, C., Liatis, S. and Kokkinos, A., 2019. Obesity and cardiovascular disease: revisiting an old relationship. Metabolism, 92, pp.98-107.
28] Lassale, C., Tzoulaki, I., Moons, K.G., Sweeting, M., Boer, J., Johnson, L., Huerta, J.M., Agnoli, C., Freisling, H., Weiderpass, E. and Wennberg, P., 2018. Separate and combined associations of obesity and metabolic health with coronary heart disease: a pan-European case-cohort analysis. European heart journal, 39(5), pp.397-406.
29] MacGregor, G.A., Sagnella, G.A., Markandu, N.D., Singer, D.R.J. and Cappuccio, F.P., 1989. Double-blind study of three sodium intakes and long-term effects of sodium restriction in essential hypertension. The Lancet, 334(8674), pp.1244-1247.
30] Gaede P, Vedel P, Larsen N, et al. Multifactorial intervention and cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes. N Engl J Med. 2003;348:383–93.
31] Libby, P., 2006. Inflammation and cardiovascular disease mechanisms. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 83(2), pp.456S-460S.
32] Howard BV, Roman MJ, Devereux RB, et al. Effect of lower targets for blood pressure and LDL cholesterol on atherosclerosis in diabetes: the SANDS randomized trial. JAMA 2008;299(14):1678–89. 62.
33] Ornish D, Brown SE, Scherwitz LW, et al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. Lancet 1990;336(8708):129–33.
34] Mensink, R.P., Zock, P.L., Kester, A.D. and Katan, M.B., 2003. Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 77(5), pp.1146-1155.

35] World Economic Forum., 2015 https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/06/worlds-10-biggest-employers/ [accessed 25.06.2020].

36] NHS Digital (2018), NHS Workforce Statistics – September 2018; NHS Digital (2018), General Practice Workforce, Final 30 September 2018, Experimental Statistics. NHS Digital