What's more deadly? Cycling or Food?
Updated: Sep 25, 2019
On March 2, 2014 a group of riders gathered to remember a fallen cyclist; one of our own. We went out and did what Hank would have wanted us to do, ride together for 50 miles on Greensboro back roads. Anyone witnessing this could be have been forgiven for assuming that Hank was killed by a car. The viral nature of bicycle/car accidents have trained us to think this way. In fact Hank died of a heart attack at age 49, taken from this earth too soon. Can anything be done to prevent the next “Hank” from passing away and leaving his friends and family behind?
Sadly several other cycling friends and acquaintances have passed away during my time in cycling. Here is the grim tally:
Heart Attacks; 4
Lou Gherigs disease; 2
Killed by cars; 0
With so much attention these days on traffic related cycling accidents and fatalities, it’s no surprise people have cited this as a reason they are avoiding the roads. Others have left the cycling community for various personal reasons but most who leave cite the hazards of road cycling as a major factor in their decision. Living a whole foods plant-based lifestyle and learning about its benefits, I have come to understand that virtually all heart attacks are dietary in origin. The dietary origins of Lou Gherigs are less clear, however a growing body of evidence suggest this horrible neurodegenerative disease also has ties to diet and lifestyle from a compound called BMAA found in fish and seafood, See HERE and HERE.
Is it possible that riding in traffic is less dangerous than eating animal products, processed sugar and junk food? By my grim tally and experience I think that is the case. With between 400,000 and 630,000 deaths per year in the U.S. from heart disease, depending on the source, heart attacks and clogged coronary arteries kill the equivalent of the population of Wyoming, every year. The vast majority of those deaths; preventable. In 2015, 818 cyclists were killed by traffic related accidents. I don't think you would have to gather much data to find that far more cyclists are killed by heart attacks than by cycling accidents which is to say far more cyclists are killed by how they eat than how they ride.
One of the problems is we have been programed to blame genetics for health related issues. Rarely do we point the blame at our forks, let alone recognize diet and lifestyle as a contributing factor. Just remember that genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger. What this means is even if you were dealt a bad hand at birth and heart disease (or any chronic disease) runs in your family, you have tremendous power over your health destiny. You can, metaphorically, reshuffle the deck and make it nearly impossible to suffer a heart attack if you are conscious and knowledgeable about what you eat, why you eat it and partake in healthy lifestyle modifications. You’re not a helpless victim.
When on the bike you should take precautions to stay safe; wear a helmet (check out my accident with a deer where a helmet probably saved my life), wear a reflective or day-glo yellow vest or coat, install one or multiple bright flashing lights front and rear, own the lane, use turn signals and obey all of the same rules of the road as cars. When not on the bike, you should also take precautions; Eat a healthy diet. Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. Avoid foods that have been shown to be significant contributors to chronic diseases, namely animal products, dairy and processed junk foods.
If you want to learn more about how diet and lifestyle can positively or negative affect your health, check out the free podcast hosted by Ian Cramer HERE featuring interviews with medical doctors and scholars of lifestyle medicine. Let’s get healthier and stay healthier, together.
Special thank you to plant-based cyclist and contributor David Pendlebury. If you’d like to contribute an article to the blog, please email me. Thank you for making the world a healthier place.
How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger