"I Don't Understand Why Asking People to Eat a Well-Balanced Vegetarian Diet is Considered Drastic, While It Is Medically Conservative To Cut People Open" -Dr. Dean Ornish-
UPDATE to this post:
I've known about Dr. Esselstyn's work for years. And Nathan Pritikin's and Dr. Dean Ornish's. But it never applied to me! I don't have heart disease! Of course I'd follow their plans if I was sick, but I'm not.
Wrong! Most of us have some stage of heart disease if we're eating the usual Western Diet, and that includes the so-called healthy Mediterranean Diet & the American Heart Association's Prudent Diet.
Autopsies performed on 20 year old American GIs during the Korean & Vietnam wars; & on accident, homicide & suicide victims aged 18-35 have consistently shown over 80% already had atherosclerotic plaque in their coronary arteries.
And atherosclerosis doesn't limit itself to the coronary arteries. If it's in your heart, it's in your brain. And seeing both my parents "survive" strokes, I'll take a heart attack over a stroke any day!
I had the chance to hear Dr. Esselstyn on WCPN's Sound of Ideas last Wednesday and the light bulb finally came on for me. Now I understand exactly why the Mediterranean Diet that I thought was so good, isn't. Olive oil-- forget about it!
Now I finally understand how we can have a heart attack or a silent stroke even if we think we don't have heart disease or atherosclerosis. Your coronary artery has to be 70% occluded to have symptoms, like angina. If your arteries are even 10-69% blocked, and you're inflaming them with what you eat, you're at risk. It's all about inflammation - Calm down the inflammation & you'll keep those atherosclerotic plaques safely stuck to your artery walls.
Tim Russert never had chest pain (angina). He was on all the right medicines. Statins & high blood pressure meds. Even if he had had an angioplasty or bypass surgery that wouldn't have arrested his disease. That's just a patch job. It doesn't do anything to stop heart disease. You can't insert stents or bypasses in every blood vessel in your body.
Who is Dr. Esselstyn & Why Should I Listen to What He Says?
- Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn was a surgeon, clinician & researcher at the Cleveland Clinic. He's presently Emeritus staff and privately sees patients from all over the country who want to take an active role in reversing their heart disease. He's a passionate out-spoken advocate for following the vegan diet to prevent, stop & reverse heart disease. He and his wife started following this diet 25 years ago, when he was 50 years old. At age 75, he's a walking testament to the diet he advocates!
- Back in 1984-85 he started a group of 24 patients with severe heart disease (5 of whom were told they had less than a year to live) on a strict vegan, no oil diet. 6 dropped out--2 of that group died--the other 4 all had bypass surgery. Of the remaining group who continued on the diet, all have stopped or reversed their heart disease for over 20 years now. All have active full lives. Here' s an example of the kind of disease reversal Dr. Essestyn's patients achieved after 32 months on a vegan diet.
How Do You Prevent, Stop & Reverse Heart Disease?
Meat, cheese, milk, butter, ice cream, eggs, fried foods, oils and margarine are the lethal atherosclerotic lynchpins.
- No chicken, no fish, no meat, no eggs
- No oils of any kind - including olive oil
- No dairy products of any kind - even fat-free
- Generally no nuts or avocados (small amounts of walnuts are OK if you don't have diagnosed heart disease-but watch out-it's hard to control the amount)
What Can You Eat?
- Vegetables-lots of greeny leafy ones to restore & heal the endothelial lining of your blood vessels. Kale, Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Collards, Bok Choy, Parsley, Spinach, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower
- Whole fruit
- Whole grains
- Beans/Legumes; "light" tofu--cautious use of low-fat soy meat substitutes. Many are highly processed, high-fat junk food.
How Long Will It Take to Make Myself Heart-Attack Proof?
How Can a Symptom-Free Person With Arterial Blockage of Only 10-30% Possibly Have a Heart Attack?
- Arterial plaque is like little bubbles of inflammation. The Western diet of meat, dairy & fat keeps that inflammation going and the plaque growing.
- Even if the artery blockage is 30% or less, when the inflammation gets to the point that the protective cap covering the plaque starts to thin out, eventually the shear force of the blood running over the plaque can cause the plaque to tear away from the artery's lining. Think of plaque like a scab in the artery lining that comes loose.
- When the plaque ruptures, its contents ooze out, spilling into the blood.
- The ruptured plaque stimulates the formation of a clot which can now cause the artery's blockage to go from the previous safe 10-30% to 100%.
- Bingo! A heart attack occurs in someone who never had a previous symptom, who never even knew he had heart disease, and certainly never had a reason to have an angiogram.
- Inflammation in the presence of plaque is bad news.
Check-out Dr. Esselstyn's website.
Listen to WCPN's broadcast.