Today marks the anniversary of the first known case of COVID-19 being diagnosed in the United States. Now, with a more infectious strain racing through the population, further threatening our health until we can get a vaccine, we need to stay healthy and reduce our risk of suffering the worst symptoms if we are unlucky enough to get it. A new article just published by Dr. Kim Williams, a respected cardiologist, warns that the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves from the most serious cases or the most dangerous symptoms is to change our diet. He espouses a plant-based or vegan approach that focuses on eating more whole plant-based foods and focus on a heart-healthy diet, to reduce the pre-existing conditions that allow COVID -19 to make people severely sick. Until we can all get the vaccine, likely in the late Spring, the most important thing we can do is change our diets to be heart healthier and lower our risk factors that lead to the most severe cases of the disease.

Dr. Williams just wrote a peer-reviewed article, published in The International Journal of Disease Prevention and Reversal (a fairly esoteric journal so don't feel bad if you missed it), called "The Importance of Healthy Lifestyle in the Era of COVID-19." that we wanted to bring you to help you avoid and reduce your risk of catching the new Coronavirus strain that is more infectious than the previous one that has ravaged our health and taken the lives of over 400,000 Americans. Dr. Williams is Past President of the American College of Cardiology, Current Chief of the Department of Cardiology at Rush Medical Center and featured in the movie, The Game Changers

Dr. Williams argues that as important as treating symptoms of the coronavirus are treating the conditions that allow it to make us sick. The most important of those is cardiovascular health, obesity, and high blood pressure. If you want to avoid getting sick from the virus, you need to continue to do all the known measures that work (mask-wearing, social distancing, washing hands, avoiding enclosed spaces with poorly circulated air) and also changing the way you eat, to be heart healthier and if you are overweight, prioritize your diet to lose weight.

The article's abstract is this: Existing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and its modifiable risk factors are associated with increased mortality from coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

"Clinical attention has focused on acute interventions for COVID-19, but reducing upstream risks associated with poor outcomes must occur in parallel. This is particularly urgent because risk factors for COVID-19 death are prevalent, and the pandemic has negatively impacted lifestyle and socioeconomic factors that augment these risks. Evidence-based lifestyle interventions have a generally short time-to-benefit, and lower risk of CVD and improve markers of immune function. Wider promotion of healthy lifestyle practices will improve the CVD health of the population and could favorably impact COVID-19 outcomes. Research examining how lifestyle modification affects COVID-19 susceptibility and severity is urgently needed."

Those modifications include eating a more plant-based diet, reducing the added sugar, chemicals, and animal fat that the average Americans consume, and increasing the number of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes in the daily diet, adds Dr. Andrew Freeman, one of the peer-review authors cited on the article, and a vegan cardiologist.

So to stay your healthiest, now and if you do get diagnosed with COVID-19, eat more plant-based foods, and get rid of all junk food in your diet. Dr. Willaims has written and spoken extensively on the topic of eating more plant-based for heart health, and was interviewed for The Beet by Elysabeth Alfano on the importance of lifestyle and dietary changes now to strengthen immunity and reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and infection.

Dr. Williams explains that studies have shown there is a connection between your cholesterol, blood pressure, and being overweight all impact your ability to fight off the worst symptoms of COVID-19.  The study looks at how of diabetes, cancer, hypertension, high cholesterol, kidney issues, and stroke, all impact COVID-19 severity. So, for more than just boosting our immune system, Dr. Williams tells patients and anyone who will listen to follow a whole-food, plant-based diet. You may not be able to avoid the airborne virus that is circulating more widely than ever, but you can protect yourself by being your heart-healthiest, and start today.


The article starts by stating: "Underlying cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the presence of CVD risk factors are associated with a greater likelihood of adverse outcomes from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including mortality. Worse COVID-19 outcomes have been observed in individuals greater than 60 years of age, and those of any age with known CVD, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus (t2DM), hypertension, or current smokers. Increased risk of severe COVID-19 is also observed with lung, kidney, or liver disease, and in those who are immunocompromised. However, the principal risks for poor outcomes from COVID-19 are modifiable and strongly impacted by lifestyle behaviors."

Primary among those behaviors are improving diet, and switching to a plant-based approach since according to the article, the same diet that is heart-healthy is also effective in lower risk of COVID symptoms.

Dr. Willaims writes: "A healthy dietary pattern, maintenance of a healthy body weight, regular physical activity, avoidance of cigarette smoking, and stress reduction are cornerstones of CVD prevention and management. In an analysis of 3 prospective and one cross-sectional study, a healthy lifestyle (3 of 4 criteria: no smoking, no obesity, regular physical activity, and a healthy diet) compared to an unhealthy lifestyle (£ 1 of the 4 criteria) was associated with a 46% reduction in the relative risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in individuals with high genetic predisposition." So put your own health first as a priority now, and you will be healthier, both now in the era of COVID-19 and later when you want to be heart-healthy.

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