HealingHeart Disease

Does Heart Disease Run in the Family?

Just Wondering: Am I Destined for Heart Disease?

When I was growing up I saw my grandfather and other family members suffering from heart disease and I wondered: does heart disease run in the family? My mother told me it did. High blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks—all symptoms of heart disease—ran in my family, according to mom. In her defense this had been the prevailing wisdom. Anyone who has visited a doctors office will have filled out the lengthy bundle of paperwork before their visit that asks them this very question: Does heart disease run in your family? If you have parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles who have suffered, you are supposed to check “yes”. According to the mainstream medical paradigm, this means you are at risk too.

My grandfather died of heart disease after being in and out of the hospital for years. Here's the last time he held my son, Axel. Thankfully, I have learned the true cause of heart disease and that it's not my destiny, nor that of my son.

Yet, as I grew up desiring to not be destined for disease, I became quite engaged with researching health and nutrition. In the pages of my nutrition texts and from the mouths of doctors and healers who have done the research, I uncovered some really good news: heart disease is not caused by genetics we cannot change, rather it’s caused by what we eat and that we can change.

Decades of scientific research has by down clearly demonstrated that heart disease is caused by eating the wrong sorts of foods for too long. High fat, high cholesterol processed foods and animal foods are not part of the natural human diet. Eating these foods leads to heart disease as well as numerous other conditions.

Heart Disease Follows Diet, Not Genes

One way we know that heart disease doesn’t run in families is that when people move from places where heart disease risk is low, to places where heart disease risk is high, their own risk increases. The risk isn’t in their genes, it’s in the food that’s available to them. The risk lies in what we eat. In How Not to Die, nutrition expert Dr. Michael Greger, MD writes,

“Immigration studies show that this resistance heart disease is not just something in the Africans’ genes When people move from low-risk to high-risk areas, their disease rates skyrocket as they adopt the diet and lifestyle habits of their new homes. The extraordinarily low rates of heart disease in rural China and Africa have been attributed to the extraordinarily low cholesterol levels among these populations.”

Traditional Chinese and African diets are centered on high-fiber, cholesterol-free, whole-plant foods such as grains, vegetables, and beans. Since animal foods are a relatively small part of their diet, their cholesterol levels are naturally low. However, as the Western diet has made it’s way to China, heart disease rates have risen as expected. Heart disease rates follow cholesterol rates, not genes.

Progression of atherosclerosis (Graphic from CDC)

Cholesterol Levels, Not Genetics, Put You At Risk for Heart Disease

If anyone knows the research on heart disease, it would be Dr. William C. Roberts, executive director of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute and editor in chief of the American Journal of Cardiology for more than thirty years. When Dr. Roberts was asked if heart disease is genetic in origin he answered:

“Although many physicians and the lay public believe that atherosclerosis is genetic, the evidence for that is slim….most persons with atherosclerosis acquire it by the types of calories they consume.”

Dr. Roberts has written extensively on the subject and says there really is only one true risk factor for developing heart disease: cholesterol. In the famous Framingham Heart Study, not a single death from heart disease was recorded with a cholesterol reading under 150 mg/dL. Dr. Roberts asserts that this should, therefore, be the public health goal for everyone. He writes,

“If such a goal was created, the great scourge of the Western world would essentially be eliminated.”

According to Dr. Michael Greger, the average cholesterol for people living in the United States is around 200 mg/dL, much greater than what science has determined is a safe level for a human.

The “Eat Smart for a Healthy Heart” Prescription

To solve the epidemic of heart disease, Dr. Roberts says we either need to put 100 million Americans on a lifetime of medication, or recommend they eat a diet of whole plant foods. I can personally testify that eating whole plants works to prevent heart disease. Despite the fact that multiple members of my family have suffered high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks, the science says I’m not at risk. I just had my blood tested and thanks to my whole food plant-based diet, at age 37 my cholesterol is 147 mg/dL. My doctor told me I have the blood of a 13 year old, but really I have the blood of someone who eats according to my human biology.

Your Natural Diet Prevents and Heals Heart Disease

Dr. Roberts points out that carnivores never develop heart disease. He says:

“Atherosclerosis affects only herbivores. Dogs, cats, tigers, and lions can be saturated with fat and cholesterol, and atherosclerotic plaques do not develop. The only way to produce atherosclerosis in a carnivore is to take out the thyroid gland”

The reason why carnivores don’t develop heart disease is rather simple—they are biologically designed to process the high cholesterol levels found in meat. Humans, like other primates, are plant eaters. We simply cannot process the high cholesterol levels of meat and eating too much of it makes us sick.

Besides preventing heart disease, our natural human diet centered on whole plant foods can also reverse heart disease. I’ve personally collected dozens of testimonials from people who have healed heart disease with nutrition. These testimonies add further evidence to the decades of scientific research which proves that heart disease does not run in families. Heart disease is not a genetic disorder, rather it is a lifestyle disease. Today’s leading cause of preventable death, responsible for 17 millions deaths every year, is completely preventable and curable with a proper diet and lifestyle.

1. Baylor University Medical Proceedings, "Twenty questions on atherosclerosis."
2. Greger, Michael, MD. How Not to Die, Flat Iron Books, 2015.
3. Harvard School of Public Health, "China facing epidemic of heart disease, stroke."

February is Heart Health Month in America. Heart Disease is the leading cause of preventable deaths today. Many people have regained their heart health simply by eating more plants and at Healing With Plants we are spreading the good news! Follow Healing With Plants on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook for more healing whole foods plant-based recipes and inspiring stories that testify for the amazing healing power of plants.

Reya Steele Andrews

Reya (Steele) Andrews is a holistic health writer, educator, and publisher at Healing With Plants. Reya is a certified Holistic Nutritionist (AFPA), is certified in Plant-based Nutrition, and teaches nutrition science and healthy food preparation. Find her book, The Frugivore Diet, on Amazon.

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