Statistics show that those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet are almost 1/3 less likely to be hospitalized or die from heart disease when factors such as age and gender are taken into consideration. So how exactly do these lifestyle choices reduce your chances of developing heart disease?
Causes of Heart Disease
Heart disease is a serious health condition that develops over time, within the walls of your coronary blood vessels (vessels supplying the heart). It begins with the accumulation of atheroma (plaque) which is often deposited due to high saturated fats, cholesterol and salt in the diet. This plaque can eventually build up and cause a stiffening of the blood vessel walls – restricting blood flow to the rest of your heart and body. This build up can cause stationary and mobile blood clots to form and increase your risk of having a myocardial infarction (heart attack) if the blood vessel is blocked entirely.
Heart disease usually occurs due to lifestyle choices such as a lack of regular exercise, a poor diet that is high in saturated fats and salt, being obese or overweight and smoking cigarettes.
Reasons Why a Vegetarian Diet Reduces the Risk:
- A vegetarian or vegan diet naturally consists of less cholesterol, often found in processed meats, diary, eggs and animal fats such as lard – this reduces the chances of plaque deposition and build-up.
- Vegetarians tend to have a lower BMI when compared to those who consume meat and animal derived products. Being at a healthier weight reduces the pressure on your heart and chances of developing high blood pressure. They also have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes due to these reasons.
- Vegetarian meals have a much lower content of saturated fats and have a higher proportion of foods that contain antioxidants, which can improve the health of the heart as well as strengthening the immune system.
Should I Be Making the Switch to Vegetarianism?
The beneficial effects that result from a vegetarian diet begin to occur from the early stages of making the lifestyle change and there is a wealth of evidence to support that this is true. However, completely eliminating animal products from your diet may be too much of a challenge and if this is the case, simply reducing your red meat or saturated fat consumption and perhaps being vegetarian one day a week can also help reduce your risk of developing heart disease. The changes don’t need to be drastic, they simply need to be maintained over time as one moves away from unhealthier habits and food substances.