Heart disease and stroke

Find out how you can prevent and even reverse heart disease and stroke simply by changing your diet.

Heart disease and stroke are among Uganda’s biggest killers. Smoking, lack of exercise and poor diet all contribute. Ditching all animal foods from the diet is an effective way to prevent and even reverse heart disease.

While infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria are major health problems in Uganda, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer are increasingly becoming leading causes of illness and death in the country. Heart disease and stroke are the biggest killers in Uganda of all the NCDs.

Official dietary advice, from various bodies, includes replacing fatty meats, biscuits and full-fat dairy products with lean meat, reduced-fat dairy and oily fish. But people who take this advice are likely to be disappointed. It’s largely ineffective with about a five per cent reduction in cholesterol levels at best. You could have far more success if you ditch meat, eggs and dairy from your diet. Strong scientific evidence shows that vegan diets can be used to prevent and treat high blood pressure and lower cholesterol and even reverse heart disease.

With all heart and circulation-related diseases, vegans suffer less than meat-eaters – and the more meat you eat, the more likely you are to end up with clogged arteries. Research shows that an animal-free diet can heal damage to the arteries. A low-fat, fully plant-based diet eaten for just a year can reverse blockages, resulting in improved blood flow.

Vegetarians and vegans are less at risk of heart disease and have up to 50 per cent less chance of dying from it. 

Here are the experiences of two groups of heart patients treated with a low-fat plant-based diet:

Chest pain had begun to disappear within weeks, cholesterol levels dropped dramatically and at the end of the year, 82 per cent saw deposits (plaques) in their coronary arteries start to dissolve without medication, surgery or side effects! The only ‘side effects’ were good ones – the average patient lost around one-and-a-half stones in the first year! Results of Dr Dean Ornish
A group of severely ill heart patients had completely run out of options – some had been given less than a year to live. Just about everything had been tried – repeated open heart surgery, angioplasties, stents and a plethora of medications. Almost all the men were impotent, most had angina and, for some, things were so bad that they couldn’t lie down and had to sleep sitting up.Of the patients who stuck to the programme, there was not a single cardiac event over the next 12 years! All were alive and well and had reversed their disease. Results of Dr Caldwell Esselstyn

Good Foods to Protect your Heart

  • Fruits – eg bananas, oranges, apples, mangos, pineapples etc
  • Vegetables – eg broccoli, kale, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squash and corn
  • Avocados – rich in healthy fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals that boost heart health
  • Wholegrains – eg brown rice, wholewheat bread, millet, barley, buckwheat and quinoa
  • Pulses (peas, all types of beans and lentils) – eg no added salt kidney beans, pinto beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds – although relatively high in fat, nuts contain healthier unsaturated fats and a small handful of nuts a day can help protect heart health

How Vegan Diets Protect Your Heart

Cutting Cholesterol
Vegans eat much less saturated fat than meat eaters and no cholesterol whatsoever. It’s no surprise that they also have healthier levels of blood cholesterol.
Bringing Down Blood Pressure
Vegans have much lower blood pressure than meat-eaters. A low-fat vegan diet can cut the risk of high blood pressure by up to half and in doing so, considerably reduces the risk of stroke. It is the totality of the diet that works, not any specific ingredient.
Full of Fibre
Fibre reduces blood cholesterol levels. More good news for vegans, who tend to eat more fibre than meat-eaters. There’s none in animal products (meat, eggs or dairy).
Antioxidants Abound
A healthy vegan diet – higher in fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses and nuts – is brimming with antioxidants. These can help strengthen the arteries and inhibit the build up of plaques.
Slim Veggies
Carrying excess fat increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. As weight increases, so do blood pressure and cholesterol. Going vegan leads to a healthier, lower body mass index (BMI).
Nature’s Aspirin
Vegans’ blood levels of salicylic acid are up to one-and-a-half times higher than meat eaters’. Salicylic acid is the main ingredient in aspirin, prescribed to reduce the risk of heart attacks by fighting the inflammation that causes them. And it seems that salicylic acid is also present in fruit and veg.

Want to know more? See our 32-page easy-to-read colourful guide Have a Heart. Brimming with life-saving information, tips and recipes, it covers heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and more. Also includes 7-day menu plan with recipes.

Or see our concise and informative fact sheet Plant-based Diets and Cardiovascular Disease– how a vegan diet can protect against heart disease and stroke.