Cardiologist Joel Kahn, M.D., FACC, FSCAI is Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Director of Cardiac Wellness at Michigan Healthcare Professionals, and author of The Whole Heart Solution: Halt Heart Disease Now with the Best Alternative and Traditional Medicine.
You say in The Whole Heart Solution that more than 75% of heart disease diagnoses could be prevented. That’s an outstanding figure. How do we know it’s true?
Primarily from studies designed this way: Take 20,000 people that have no detectable heart disease—no chest pain, bypass, stents, etc. Take detailed lifestyle histories—do they smoke, what do they eat, do they sleep well, etc. Follow them for 15−20 years, and then reassess: Who’s had a stroke, a heart attack, a bypass, a stent. Look at the lifestyle that predicts freedom from having a heart event.
Many such studies, encompassing 100,000+ people, have been done worldwide. All have remarkably similar findings: With a simple pattern of habits, you can achieve more than a 75% heart-attack-free life. Lifestyle, or what I like to call "Vitamin L," is the key factor in heart disease prevention.
What’s the "Vitamin L" protocol for heart disease protection?
Six essential lifestyle habits consistently appeared across all studies:
1. Don’t smoke. It’s an extremely bad habit.
2. Be active. We’re talking moderately active. These studies didn’t ask how many pounds you can clean jerk or how many spinning classes you took last week. They asked, #&34Do you walk 30−40 minutes a day on average?"
3. Control weight. The most consistent finding is a prediction of freedom from heart attack for men who keep their waists under 40 inches and women who keep theirs under 35.
4. Consume alcohol in moderation. This finding is very controversial, but the data is the data: Almost every study showed that some consistent use of alcohol was favorable in predicting up to 85% freedom from heart attack. Interestingly, different countries have different alcohol cultures, but the results indicate that one ounce of hard liquor, five ounces of wine, and eight ounces of beer are relatively equivalent in protection. Some studies showed positive results with a few drinks a month; others supported as much as daily ingestion of one drink.
5. Seven hours of sleep on average. This relatively novel finding, assessed in just a few of the studies, is that if you average fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, you’re at significant increased risk of heart attack. The Morgen Study of 1,000 people, for example, found that the people who did all the lifestyle habits we’re talking about but typically slept under seven hours had about a 65% chance of being heart attack-free, compared to up to 85% for those who got seven hours. Good sleep offers a substantial amount of heart attack freedom.
6. Five or more servings of vegetables and fruits a day. I saved this habit for last because it’s the one people hit the least—only 1−3% of Americans do it—but it’s the most important. Every single study found that five plus servings of vegetables and fruits a day is that "special sauce" in achieving the up to 85% number. And there’s no reason we can’t do it. It’s simple and very doable. It’s not expensive, no one specified eating organic produce, although we could discuss whether or when going organic might be helpful in some instances.
That’s the program. And since heart disease is the #1 killer of both men and women over 30 in this country, we should be teaching it as the «holy grail» of heart disease prevention.by