Poor Eating Habits is Killing Half of America


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Nearly half of all American adults - 117 million people - have chronic diseases which are related to poor diet and physical inactivity. And one of these diseases is heart failure.

The term “heart failure” can be a bit confusing. You may think that heart failure occurs when someone has a fatal heart attack or their heart just stops working, but that is not exactly the case.

Actually, heart failure means that the heart isn't pumping as well as it should be,”according to the American Heart Association.

“Your body depends on the heart's pumping action to deliver oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the body's cells. When the cells are nourished properly, the body can function normally. With heart failure, the weakened heart can't supply the cells with enough blood. This results in fatigue and shortness of breath and some people have coughing. Everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying groceries can become very difficult.”

So, it is not necessarily instant death. It is a chronic, progressive condition, and many Americans are currently living with it.

Causes of heart failure include coronary heart disease ((also called atherosclerosis) plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries), diabetes, high blood pressure and more.

The number of adults living with heart failure increased from about 5.7 million (2009-2012) to about 6.5 million (2011-2014), according to the American Heart Association’s 2017 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update.

These numbers may be startling and scary. But according to a recent study, we may be able to reduce our risk by switching to a  plant-based diet.

The study is not suggesting all people follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, but “[e]ating a diet mostly of dark green leafy plants, fruits, beans, whole grains and fish, while limiting processed meats, saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and foods high in added sugars is a heart-healthy lifestyle and may specifically help prevent heart failure if you don't already have it,” said Dr. Kyla Lara, one of the lead authors of the study.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 1 in 10 American adults meet the federal fruit or vegetable recommendations.

“Depending on their age and sex federal guidelines recommend that adults eat at least 1½ to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables as part of a healthy eating pattern,” according to the CDC.

The study regarding plant-based diets and heart failure, involved 15,569 people who had no prior diagnosis of heart failure or heart disease.

Participants reported their dietary habits through a food frequency questionnaire, and their diets were classified with statistical modeling into the following categories:

  • Convenience (red meats, pastas, fried potatoes, fast foods)
  • Plant-based (dark, leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, fish)
  • Sweets (desserts, breads, sweet breakfast foods, chocolate, candy)
  • Southern (eggs, fried food, organ meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages)
  • Alcohol/Salads (salad dressings, green, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, wine, butter, liquor).

“Over the nearly 3000 days of follow up, 300 instances of hospitalizations for incident heart failure were reported,” according to study notes.

“The researchers found that of the five dietary patterns, greater adherence to the plant-based diet had the strongest association with a decreased risk of incident heart failure when adjusted for age, sex and race of the participants and for other risk factors. No associations for the other four dietary patterns were found.”

People who mainly ate a plant-based diet had a 42% decreased risk of developing heart failure.

In addition to making sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, the study recommends reducing the consumption of red meat.

It is important to note that this study specifically focused on people who had no prior incidents of heart disease or heart failure. This study was also observational, so it may have identified a trend but it does not prove cause and effect.

So how can we be proactive?

Whether you have had no issues with heart failure or heart disease or are currently battling heart issues, it is important to eat a healthy diet with plenty of plant-based foods. If you are a regular meat-eater, you should perhaps consider reducing your meat intake.

You may have seen some of our prior blogs about Meatless Mondays. Going meat free, even just one day a week, may make a big difference in your health.

And the impact of healthy eating does not stop at heart health.

It is estimated that approximately 50% of cancer cases and 35% of cancer deaths in the United States can be attributed to poor diet,” according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

If you struggle with eating fresh fruits and vegetables, here are a few tips to make it a bit easier:

  • Add greens, like spinach, kale and dandelion to your fruit smoothies in the morning. You can also add these greens to your sandwiches and pasta sauces.
  • Spice up your life. Many people forget that spices and herbs are very nutrient dense and super easy to add to your diet. You can add parsley to fruit smoothies and not even taste it. Also toss in some ginger for a delicious, sweet and spicy flavor.
  • Make healthy meal prepping a priority. Involve the whole family.

And as always, if you have any existing health issues speak with a doctor and competent nutritionist to form a meal plan that is right for you. It is also important to undergo nutritional testing at least once a year to determine whether we have any nutrient imbalances.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of healthcare and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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