Halving Heart Attack Risk

Halving Heart Attack Risk
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Three interventions that may cut one’s risk in half of dying from our #1 killer.

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What about nuts? A whole handful, everyday. Harmful, harmless, or helpful? Not only helpful; a single handful of nuts a day may cut our risk of having a heart attack in half, and may cut our risk of dying from heart disease in half as well. People who smoke double their risk of dying from heart disease, so don’t ever smoke. People who don’t eat nuts every day double their risk of dying from heart disease. So don’t ever not eat nuts—unless, of course, you’re allergic. The available evidence suggests that eating nuts may extend our life by literally years. Any kind of nuts? Basically all nuts— except chestnuts and coconuts. Even peanuts should be considered nuts because of their nutritional profile, even though they’re technically not. So, am I saying peanut butter will likely help us live longer? Yes!

Is there anything else besides nuts and not smoking that can just down and dirty cut our risk in half of dying from heart disease—the #1 killer of both American men and women, every single year, since 1918? Yes. Vitamin X, also known by its full name, exercise. Briskly walking just a few miles a day, according to the Honolulu Heart Study, cuts our cardiac risk in half. Exercise is like choosing a healthy diet. Diets only work if we stick with them our whole life. Same with exercise; so, we should pick something we enjoy, and not be afraid to try something new. Water aerobics classes at community health centers, or yoga, bike a scenic path, walk the dog, join a team. Use it as a stress reduction time. If you are more of an indoor person, watch TV or a movie while jogging on a treadmill, or pedaling on an exercise bike.

Now, how much exercise do we need to do? Just like the change from 5 A Day to 9 A Day, the exercise recommendations have changed as well. In 1996, the Surgeon General called for 30 minutes a day. That’s not what the science showed, but he didn’t want to scare people off, and didn’t want to make it sound too extreme. He didn’t think we could handle the truth. The same patronizing reason the target cholesterol is 200, not 150—which science clearly shows it to be. Authorities want to make things sound achievable. Well, you know, tell that to all the families left behind. Anyway, the Surgeon General’s half-hour a day recommendation was ten years ago. Finally, the Institute of Medicine believed we could handle the truth. After looking at the data, they recommended 60 minutes a day, every day, of what they call moderately intense physical activity, like brisk walking. An hour a day may sound like a lot, but when our bodies were evolving over millions of years, all we did was basically exercise all day. Our bodies were built to move at a minimum of an hour a day. I think this cartoon says it best: “What fits your busy schedule better, exercising for an hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?” Exercising regularly isn’t just about living longer; it decreases our risk of developing dementia. You’ll not only be healthier; you’ll feel healthier. Your immune system will be stronger; you’ll sleep better; you’ll have more energy; you’ll speed up your metabolism; you’ll work off the stress in your life; and you’ll improve your mood—just by moving your body.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Shad Bolling via Flickr.

What about nuts? A whole handful, everyday. Harmful, harmless, or helpful? Not only helpful; a single handful of nuts a day may cut our risk of having a heart attack in half, and may cut our risk of dying from heart disease in half as well. People who smoke double their risk of dying from heart disease, so don’t ever smoke. People who don’t eat nuts every day double their risk of dying from heart disease. So don’t ever not eat nuts—unless, of course, you’re allergic. The available evidence suggests that eating nuts may extend our life by literally years. Any kind of nuts? Basically all nuts— except chestnuts and coconuts. Even peanuts should be considered nuts because of their nutritional profile, even though they’re technically not. So, am I saying peanut butter will likely help us live longer? Yes!

Is there anything else besides nuts and not smoking that can just down and dirty cut our risk in half of dying from heart disease—the #1 killer of both American men and women, every single year, since 1918? Yes. Vitamin X, also known by its full name, exercise. Briskly walking just a few miles a day, according to the Honolulu Heart Study, cuts our cardiac risk in half. Exercise is like choosing a healthy diet. Diets only work if we stick with them our whole life. Same with exercise; so, we should pick something we enjoy, and not be afraid to try something new. Water aerobics classes at community health centers, or yoga, bike a scenic path, walk the dog, join a team. Use it as a stress reduction time. If you are more of an indoor person, watch TV or a movie while jogging on a treadmill, or pedaling on an exercise bike.

Now, how much exercise do we need to do? Just like the change from 5 A Day to 9 A Day, the exercise recommendations have changed as well. In 1996, the Surgeon General called for 30 minutes a day. That’s not what the science showed, but he didn’t want to scare people off, and didn’t want to make it sound too extreme. He didn’t think we could handle the truth. The same patronizing reason the target cholesterol is 200, not 150—which science clearly shows it to be. Authorities want to make things sound achievable. Well, you know, tell that to all the families left behind. Anyway, the Surgeon General’s half-hour a day recommendation was ten years ago. Finally, the Institute of Medicine believed we could handle the truth. After looking at the data, they recommended 60 minutes a day, every day, of what they call moderately intense physical activity, like brisk walking. An hour a day may sound like a lot, but when our bodies were evolving over millions of years, all we did was basically exercise all day. Our bodies were built to move at a minimum of an hour a day. I think this cartoon says it best: “What fits your busy schedule better, exercising for an hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?” Exercising regularly isn’t just about living longer; it decreases our risk of developing dementia. You’ll not only be healthier; you’ll feel healthier. Your immune system will be stronger; you’ll sleep better; you’ll have more energy; you’ll speed up your metabolism; you’ll work off the stress in your life; and you’ll improve your mood—just by moving your body.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Shad Bolling via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

How can nut consumption benefit our cardiovascular health? Learn more:

Exercise is also important for cardiovascular health:

And check out the other videos on heart health, as well as my associated blog post: Eating To Extend Our Lifespan.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

27 responses to “Halving Heart Attack Risk

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  1. Is there any advantage to exercising more than an hour per day, or is there a law of diminishing returns at some point. My husband and I walk 7-8 miles per day, 6 days per week. The walks are just over 2 hours. Would we get just as much benefit with a 4-5 mile walk.




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    1. You can wait the rest of your life and cause and effect may not be found. I suggest erring on the side of the precautionary principle when it comes to natural solutions, and ignoring drug propaganda.




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    1.  I haven’t seen studies on soaking nuts. I can’t imagine that water would have an adverse effect on the nutrient value of nuts. I’m always open to changing my beliefs when confronted with good science. Since water is something we require the addition of water to nut should be beneficial. Although as they found out in a radio station contest in Sacramento CA you can die from too much water.




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        1.  Thanks for the link. I enjoyed reading it. I’m not sure the science supports the hypotheses about enzymes and enzyme inhibitors but I was trained as a chemical engineer which makes me a pragmatist not to mention my 35 years in medical practice. If soaking nuts works well for an individual than I don’t care about the mechanism… go for it. Eventually some scientific study might will help explain. Take care.




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            1. In my medical school we had a 4 hour course on nutrition plus what was worked into other courses. Of course that was along time ago. The science is difficult to keep up with given the number of articles in nutrition plus traditional medical or surgical therapies. That is what makes Dr. Greger’s website so valuable. It has the articles that he cites available. 




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  2. why do Ornish and Esselston in the reversal of heart disease, eliminate nuts in the diet, if they are so good for heart health…




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    1. Risk can vary widely. To say 90% is kind of a lot. Perhaps you could have a decreased by up to 90%? All studies vary and they come up with different percentages, which cannot be taken for face value. The fact is eating while foods plant0based diets significantly reduce risk of heart disease.




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  3. Had my blood test done and a bit disappointed with my cholesterol levels. My triglyceride was 89.4 (I think that is good). My LDL is 105.7(I think that is good) Total Cholesterol is 151.2 (also ok I think) BUT my HDL was only 40.5 (I think that is bad/way to low). I’ve been eating a whole foods plant-based diet for 2 years with lots of greens and raw fruit and veggies, nut and seeds. I walk over 90 minutes every day and I’m not at all over weight (5 foot 6 and 120 pounds). Before going all plant based I was vegetarian. I really thought my HDL would be great




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    1. Your TC is fine (and might go even lower if you cut back a little on the plant fats in the nuts/seeds, avocados you’re eating.) HDL is a portion of the Total Cholesterol and therefore you can’t increase your HDL unless you also increase the TC -which is NOT what you want to do. The HDL recommendations assume you have “typical” TC numbers because you eat the Std American diet. Keep doing what you’re doing as far as exercise and low fat plant based diet.




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  4. I’m curious about the serving size for a handful of nuts. Are we talking a 1/4 cup (small handful) or would even a generous handful be ok? I love my nuts and it is not uncommon for me to eat 2 or 3 – 1/4 cup servings a day and I am wondering if I should reduce it? Thanks for any feedback :)




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    1. Pat: I can’t speak to any specific study, but I have always heard a serving of nuts defined as 1 ounce, which I think is about a scant 1/4 cup. As part of Dr. Greger’s daily dozen, he recommends about 1 serving of nuts a day. If memory serves, he (and other doctors) has said in the past that 1-2 ounces a day is OK. So, your 2, 1/4 cup servings is not too far off. But whether 1 or 2 (or three) is best for you in particular, I would ask yourself: What are my calorie needs? and Am I a healthy weight? Nuts are very calorie dense, so eating no more than one serving (or none at all) makes sense if weight is an issue for you. What do you think? PS: I love nuts too.




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      1. Thanks for the quick and helpful reply fellow nut lover Thea!! I’m glad to hear that my 2 servings per day may not be too far off ;) But you raise an important point about the calorie content of the nuts. I do want to reduce my weight some, so I should probably keep it to 1 ( or maybe two :P) – 1 ounce servings / 1/4 cup servings per day. Darn things are just too yummy!




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  5. Hi wanted to ask roasted or raw nuts? Does it matter? Also another poster mentioned soaking nuts and from what I have read most people soak them, then dehydrate them, then eat them. So just curious if any of this matters or not.




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  6. Hello from the UK. Does the recommended one hour of exercise a day need to be taken in a one hour block? I’ve heard recommendations on the radio over here that intense bursts of exercise for a few minutes can be effective. My own exercise pattern often consists of a two hour visit to Kew Botanical Gardens during which I may do several ten minute walks including a vigorous climb up ten flights of steps for the treet-top walkway, but also involves breaks to take it easy sitting on a bench or to take some photos.

    Should I be stepping things up a bit?

    All the best

    James




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  7. Hi James,

    I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thanks so much for your question. This is a very good question, and one that I’m sure many people have.

    The amount of exercise that is recommended is difficult to determine. Studies have shown that the more exercise individuals get, the longer they live typically. The actual recommendation is only 20 minutes/day, but we have fairly strong evidence to suggest that 60 minutes would be better than 20, and that 90 minutes would be better than 60. Check out this video regarding the amount we should be exercising: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-much-should-you-exercise/

    As far as stopping and taking breaks, that’s fine. There are no recommendations, to my knowledge, that you have to get a certain amount of exercise in all at once.

    I hope this helps, and I wish you all the best on your health journey!




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