Healthy Heart

Can Heart Disease Be Reversed?

Can Heart Disease Be Reversed?

Coronary heart disease is a very common condition characterized by high LDL levels and blood pressure. A cardiac stress test by increasing the speed and inclination on a treadmill helps to diagnose the condition. Surgery and medication are common treatment strategies opted for when diagnosed with this condition. Very simple changes in lifestyle, such as healthy eating habits, regular exercise, weight loss, and stress management help to control the condition. Most people have doubts as to whether the condition can be completely reversed rather than slowing down its progression. 

Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, is of the opinion that even the damages caused by severe heart diseases can be reversed. He adds that the functioning of the heart can be improved considerably by making significant changes in lifestyle. According to him, the improvement can be felt within a month and the frequency of chest pain reduces by almost 90%. In one study, even severely blocked arteries could be corrected. The reversal of conditions was found to be significant even after five years when compared to others who did not take up lifestyle changes.

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Lifestyle measures that may help to reverse heart conditions include:

  • Exercise – Walking is one of the most common and easiest exercise options. Walking for half an hour every day or for an hour three times a week will help in controlling symptoms. Simply move more than you did before.
  • Diet changes – To reverse heart disease, one needs to transform to a completely healthy diet. This includes having lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, non-fat dairy, and avoiding fats, refined sugar, and processed carbohydrates. Eating foods in their natural form is a very important step in maintaining a healthy diet.
  • Yoga, meditation, and stress reduction – These steps also help in reversing a heart condition

According to the contradictory view on the possibility of reversing the condition of the heart, though major changes can be brought about in the conditions, sustaining the same would be very difficult. Lori Mosca, MD, MPH, PhD, professor of medicine and director of preventive cardiology at Columbia University Medical Center, feels that even when a person lives a very strict lifestyle, reversing the heart disease is next to impossible. Mosca suggests that one can never cure heart disease, but it's definitely possible to slow down the progress of the disease.

Mosca emphasizes the importance of controlling heart disease in the first place by having a healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. She adds that instead of having a highly restricted diet one should follow the USDA’s new “MyPlate” program in which one half of the plate is loaded with fruits and vegetables and the other half is divided between lean proteins and high-quality carbohydrates. Saturated fats should be reduced to less than 7% of the total calorie intake. Choosing heart healthy fats, such as salmon and fishes that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, gives better results.