By Wendy Sarubbi | October 28, 2011 2:53 pm

If you want to be “heart-attack proof,” eat like the rural Chinese, central Africans, Papua Highlanders and the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. Follow a plant-based diet. That’s the dietary prescription Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. delivered recently a UCF College of Medicine audience.

After nibbling on platters of fresh fruit and vegetables at a reception, the College of Medicine attendees listened as Dr. Esselstyn discussed the virtues of a plant-based diet. The author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease said there is an absence of coronary artery disease in certain cultures around the world that do not follow the traditional Western diet.

“It’s time to change the paradigm in heart-disease treatment,” said Dr. Esselstyn. He urged audience members to forgo oil, fish, fowl, meat and dairy for grains, legumes, lentils, vegetables and fruit.

Dr. Esselstyn explained that these foods form a “magic carpet” in blood vessels and help manufacture nitric oxide, which protects blood vessels. Nitric oxide keeps the blood flowing smoothly, inhibits plaque and reduces inflammation.

According to Dr. Esselstyn, the typical Western diet attacks the body’s nitric-oxide producing ability, setting the stage for plaque buildup and heart disease. “Stop the injury and the body begins to heal,” he said.

According to the American Heart Association, 83 million Americans are affected by cardiovascular disease, and many of the traditional risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, are at all-time highs. The organization said that the cost of treating heart disease is more than $270 billion per year and is expected to more than double by 2025.

Dr. Esselstyn conducted a 20-year study that provided scientific evidence that a plant-based, oil-free diet could prevent and end the heart disease epidemic in the United States. He also directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic.

The Student Alliance for Integrative Medicine (AIM) at the College of Medicine sponsored Dr. Esselstyn’s talk. The student-run organization provides medical students with resources on complementary and alternative medical practices as part of an integrated approach to medicine.

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