September 6, 2018

Wait, You Can Reverse Heart Disease? Taking Care of Our Hearts with Food

By Lucy Jones

Brian Asbill, MD, cardiologist and board-certified lipidologist, inspires us to think of food as medicine – for not only preventing, but reversing heart disease.

Studies have shown that higher meat consumption links to higher risk of coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease occurs when cholesterol builds up in your heart arteries, which then causes a heart-attack – one-third of which are fatal. Even the ones that are not fatal could leave a damaged heart muscle and never be the same.

While meat is a good source of protein, Dr. Asbill explains that it’s high in saturated fat – particularly processed meat, including hot dogs, bacon, ham and pepperoni, which has been cured or adulterated in some way to give it longer shelf life. Processed meat is considered a level one carcinogen, meaning it can lead to cancer over time if consumed often.

Dr. Asbill recommends avoiding saturated fats “because our bodies can oversimplify and convert it into cholesterol, which is densely choleric,” said Dr. Asbill. “Cholesterol has no energy associated with it. Your body creates all the cholesterol you need.”

Dr. Asbill says the worst type of meat to consume on a daily basis is red meat, and the best to consume is fish like mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon. Essentially, cutting out animal products and removing meat as the focal point of your eating habits will help reverse clogging of the arteries.

There are alternative measures you can take to lower your risk of heart disease such as:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Be active
  • Eat heart-healthy foods
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage other health problems

Reversing Heart Disease with the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program

Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program is a program with four key elements, which has shown to reverse heart disease. Dr. Dean Ornish began research in the 1980s and has dedicated well over 30 years to helping patients who have coronary heart disease. The four key elements of lifestyle change are:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Stress management
  • Group support

This program involves patients who have heart disease to join an intense program twice a week for nine weeks and will continue to find support through the alumni program or have the option of staying on Mission’s Heart Health Path gym for continuation of exercise.

Brian Asbill, MD, is cardiologist and board-certified lipidologist at Asheville Cardiology Associates, an affiliate of Mission Health.

Learn more about heart care and services with Mission Health at