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Heart health: Eat Mediterranean to reverse heart disease

After losing her father to his second heart attack and fearing that her husband would suffer the same fate after his first, Dr. Janet Bond Brill, a nutrition expert in Pennsylvania, was inspired to write Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease. The book offers health tips, a two-week eating plan and recipes – tools to help people eat their way to good health.

Mediterranean food

The need for heart disease prevention

More than 13 million Americans have survived a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart disease. But research shows that just one year after their diagnosis, the vast majority fails to stick to the dietary changes that could prevent a second heart attack.

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Dr. Janet Bond Brill, a dietitian specializing in cardiovascular disease prevention, says the problem is that many people find the “cardiac diet” too restrictive or complicated, and some receive no lifestyle counseling. “Why should heart attack survivors be punished further with the burden of tasteless, low-fat plans when there is a better way?” she asks.

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Make heart health a delicious endeavor

Dr. Brill’s new book outlines the steps and more “palatable” meal strategies to help prevent new plaque buildup, and reverse or stabilize plaque in the coronary arteries. “Many of the best-selling plans advise avoiding fish, any and all kinds of oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and chocolate – delightfully tasty foods – all advocated in my plan,” the nutrition expert says. Her plan primarily is a plant-based diet, high in nutrients; it also allows coffee, tea and dark chocolate. People will find it more effective, she says, because it tastes good and makes life more enjoyable.

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Best lifestyle habits: Mediterranean diet — and exercise

Researchers have studied the effects of various diet and exercise plans in preventing further coronary events. The bulk of the scientific evidence suggests that post-heart attack patients should eat a Mediterranean-style diet, be physically active at least 30 minutes a day and not smoke. The Lyon Heart Study that tested a Cretan Mediterranean diet in cardiac patients reported a phenomenal reduction of recurrence rate of 70 percent, compared to the control diet – a typical low-fat Western-style diet. Dr. Brill also recommends the supplements niacin, vitamin D3 and fish oil.

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Mediterranean diet: The Eight Dietary Commandments for heart health

Dr. Brill’s plan removes the plaque-building foods – red meat, cream, butter, eggs and cheese – that cause blood vessel damage, and replaces them with foods for natural healing.

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The Eight Dietary Commandments are as follows:

  1. No more butter and cream; replaced by extra-virgin olive oil
  2. No day without greens and other vegetables
  3. No day without figs or other fruit
  4. No beef, lamb or pork
  5. Replace meat with fish and legumes
  6. No day without walnuts and flaxseeds
  7. No day without whole grains and cereals
  8. Moderate alcohol consumption, mainly red wine at dinner

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More heart-healthy habits

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