Many of you know that I suffer from Meniere’s disease and follow a strict low-sodium diet. What you may not know is that heart disease also runs in my family. I’ve lost my paternal grandfather and two uncles to the disease, and very nearly my own father. Last month, my dad read a revolutionary book by Dr. Caldwell Esslestyn called Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. The book advocates the adoption of a plant-based diet, devoid of meat and animal products. Although my dad has spent the better part of his 70 years consuming not just meat and dairy but everything in between, the scientific study upon which the book is founded changed his world. Overnight, my Midwestern “meat & potatoes” dad became a vegan. If you’re shocked, you cannot imagine my mom’s reaction! I asked him to share his story and have reprinted it below. I’m not a vegan, but this could change my mind. Thank you, Daddy. I love you.
I am Christy’s father. I am a 70 year old man with advanced heart disease. Our family has a serious history of coronary disease. My father died of a heart attack at age 87. My oldest brother died of a heart attack at 75, my older brother died of a heart attack at 54, and my younger sister suffered a severe stroke in her mid-60s.
I had a heart attack and triple bypass heart operation in 2005. I am under the care of a cardiologist, who this year identified changes on my EKG and recommended a heart catheterization. The angiogram revealed that I had no blockages in my major heart arteries or in my bypass grafts. But it did show that the smaller arteries were blocked. The cardiologist performing the catheterization informed me that there was no mechanical intervention (bypass, balloon, angioplasty or stent) that he would recommend. He stated that left untreated these arteries served cells that constituted approximately 10% of my heart muscle, cells which would die. But I could live without that ten percent functioning. There was nothing else that he knew to be done. I accepted this news as the definitive professional truth. I accepted that there was nothing else that could be done about my heart disease, and I continued my life in the same manner I had lived prior to the test.
I am retired, having spent the bulk of my career in the health field as a hospital administrator (COO and CEO of three hospitals) and as a health care business consultant. One of the hospitals I was in charge of was an inner-city teaching hospital with a significant cardiology and cardio-thoracic surgical practice. My oldest brother came to that hospital for his open heart bypass surgery. The surgery and future interventions extended his life almost 30 years. My other brother was not as fortunate. He died suddenly before the severity of his condition was discovered. I know first hand from these deaths the lethal grip cardiovascular disease has held on our family. Throughout my professional years I knew well the limitations medicines and surgical interventions faced in combating this disease – by treating the symptoms they have the ability to extend life and improve its quality but no ability to cure the disease.
The breakthrough is a scientifically studied and proven, nutrition-based eating plan. The pioneering work of William Castelli, director of the Framingham Heart Study, and the research of Dr. Dean Ornish was the foundation of the first 12-year continuous research study of the effects of nutrition in severely ill heart patients conducted and published by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr, MD. After reading Dr. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, I began to follow the eating plan he recommends. The rules of his eating plan as presented are:
- You may not eat anything with a mother or a face (no meat, poultry, fish or eggs)
- You cannot eat dairy products
- You must not consume oil of any kind – not a drop
- Generally, you cannot eat nuts or avocados
You can eat these wonderful foods:
- All vegetables except avocados
- All legumes – beans, peas and lentils of all varieties
- All whole grains and products such as bread and pasta that are made from them – as long as they do not contain added fats
- All fruits
Dr. Esselstyn’s twelve-year study documented that this plan works. Patients who were fully compliant achieved total arrest of clinical progression and selective reversal of coronary artery disease.
I never before knew this was possible. Now I can do something truly significant to help myself. So I dramatically changed my eating behavior, literally overnight. For over seventy years I had been a product of my Midwestern heritage – a meat and potatoes eater – a real “meat-a-tarian.” Now I am a new vegan.
This is truly a dramatic dietary change, but so far it has been easier and more enjoyable than I imagined. I am able to stay on the plan because I am eating foods I like in restaurants I like and eating foods at home that I can purchase and prepare for myself. My wife does not have to change her eating behavior. I am encouraged by my family, especially by my daughter Christy, who is very knowledgeable about foods and especially enthusiastic in supporting my changes.
I choose life over death. I choose to eat to heal, not to kill. Lovingly, I recommend to you to do the same.