Coronary heart disease is a very common heart condition characterized by very 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 the common treatment strategies opted for when diagnosed with this condition. Very simple changes in the lifestyle, such as healthy eating habits, regular exercise, weight loss and stress management, helps to control the condition. Most people have doubt 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 of the studies, 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 the lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle measures that may help to reverse the damaged heart condition include:
- Exercise – Walking is one of the most common exercise options. Walking for half an hour everyday or for an hour three times a week will help in controlling the symptoms
- Diet changes – To reverse heart disease, one need to totally transform to a completely healthy diet. This includes having lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, non fat dairy, egg whites and avoiding fats, refined sugar, and processed carbohydrates. Eating foods in their natural form is a very important step in having a healthy diet.
- Yoga, meditation, and stress reduction – These steps also help in reversing the 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 can definitely 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.
- If one adapts a healthy lifestyle, he or she can help contribute to the prevention of heart disease.