I am a 71-year-old cardiac patient who has been on a vegan diet for one year this month.
In 2005, I suffered a heart attack and received open heart triple bypass surgery. Following surgery I did cardiac rehab and followed the doctor’s recommended diet. While on the exercise and diet program, I lost approximately 50 pounds. Gradually, however, I began to cheat on the program, ultimately ceasing exercise and the diet as well. Over the course of the next five years, I regained all 50 pounds.
In 2011, I suffered a serious angina attack and was hospitalized. I received heart catheterization, which revealed that my bypass grafts were clear, as were the major arteries serving my heart. Unfortunately, the minor arteries were clogged. My cardiologist stated that these minor arteries were too small for either stent implants or balloon dilatations. He explained that there was nothing that could be done to arrest or reverse the damage and that I would likely experience death of roughly 10% of the cells in my heart. I was placed on additional medications, scheduled for office visits, and that was that.
One evening late last summer, former President Bill Clinton spoke on television discussing the changes he had made in his diet following his heart attack. He mentioned two books which detailed the medical research behind his decision, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. and The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. I purchased both and when I finished reading, I too made the decision to become a vegan. The truth revealed by the medical research presented in both books was life changing. I now knew what no physician during my entire 35-year career span as a hospital administrator and health care consultant had ever told me: that heart disease can be reversed. I was willing to wager all on this diet, knowing its potential for healing.
I made the change to a vegan diet in September 2011. Over the past year, my weight has gone from 273 pounds to 233, a loss of 40 pounds. I have gone from a size 2XL shirt to XL, and from size 46 waist pants to a size 40. Even my belts are on their last notches and will soon need to be replaced! My cardiologist visits have been cut in half, from four visits a year to just two, and the blood work from my most recent visit was all in the healthy, normal range, including a total cholesterol level of 122 mg/dL.
I truly am a vegan for life! Although it may sound difficult, giving up meat, dairy, and eggs is an easy choice when you think about the alternative. I chose life over death. I now eat to extend my life, not to continue shortening it. My focus was and is on the medicinal benefits of consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet – reversing my cardiac disease and doing all I possibly can to prevent any additional ailments. The research outlined by Drs. Campbell and Esselstyn presents each of us with the opportunity to improve our health, increase our energy, and enhance our lives. It is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
Since going vegan, I am pleased that my nuclear family, my wife (to an increasing degree), our two daughters, our two sons-in-law, and our two older granddaughters are now eating either vegetarian or vegan. Our third granddaughter is 6 months old and in the process of switching to vegetables and fruit from her “vegan fueled” mother’s milk. What a blessing for all three generations of our family to experience enhanced health and well being!
I want to thank my daughter, Christy, who has inspired and counseled me during this first year of our journey, and to the remaining members of our family who have each offered their support and encouragement. All nine of us shared a week-long beach vacation just a few weeks ago, being together, cooking, and eating vegan. It was a magnificent week; an experience we hope to repeat for years and years to come.