Sunday, February 5, 2012


A friend of mine posted an obituary the other day. The deceased was a middle-aged woman with two daughters (one a teen, one a pre-teen). She died of a heart attack. I just hate it when I see something like that because I truly believe that if she'd been eating a plant-strong diet it might have been avoided.

Let me reiterate: I'm not eating this way to live longer, but if I were a mother with children at home who still needed me I would be. At this stage of my life I'm not exactly looking for the exit, but there is nothing like being a mother of small children to make you want to stick around for a bit.

No, I am eating this way not to prolong my life but to enhance it. I want to LIVE until I die. If Drs. Esselstyn and Campbell are any indication, eating this way will certainly have that effect. They are both extraordinarily active and fit as they near eighty. For most people heart disease doesn't appear suddenly and kill you. No, it creeps in and steals your quality of life, costs you thousands of dollars, and causes those you love to become burdened with your care. It's all of those things that I am looking to avoid.

And as Dr. Esselstyn says, "Heart disease is a toothless paper tiger that need never exist and if it exists it need never progress." He also calls heart disease a "food-borne illness." Remember -- there is nothing that a cardiologist can do to stop or reverse heart disease. All that Western medicine has to offer are ways to slow the progression of the disease. But diet can stop it in its tracks and for most people even reverse the damage.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Esselstyn's book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease:

"It was a Friday in November 1996. I had operated all day. I finished, said good-bye to my last patient, and got a very, very bad headache. It hit me in a flash. I had to sit down. A minute or two after that, the chest pain started. It radiated up my arm and shoulder and into my jaw." These are the words of Joe Crowe, the doctor who succeeded me as chairman of the breast cancer task force at the Cleveland Clinic. He was having a heart attack. He was only forty-four years old. He had no family history of heart disease, was not overweight or diabetic, and did not have high blood pressure or a bad cholesterol count. In short, he was not the usual candidate for a heart attack...

...After his heart attack in 1996, tests showed that the entire lower third of his left anterior descending coronary artery—the vessel leading to the front of the heart and nicknamed, for obvious reasons, "the widowmaker"—was significantly diseased. His coronary artery anatomy excluded him as a candidate for surgical bypass, angioplasty, or stents, and at such a young age, with a wife and three small children, Dr. Crowe was understandably disconsolate and depressed. Since he already exercised, did not use tobacco, and had a relatively low cholesterol count of 156 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), there seemed to be nothing he could modify, no obvious reforms in lifestyle that might halt the disease.

Joe was aware of my interest in coronary disease. About two weeks after his heart attack, he and his wife, Mary Lind, came to dinner at our house and I had a chance to share the full details of my research. Both Joe and Mary Lind immediately grasped the implications for Joe of a plant-based diet. All at once, instead of having no options, they were empowered. In Mary Lind’s words, "It was our own personal disaster, and suddenly there was something small we could do." Immediately, Joe embarked on my nutrition program, refusing to take any cholesterol-lowering drugs, and he redefined the word commitment. He stuck to the plan rigorously, eventually reducing his total blood cholesterol count to just 89 mg/dL and cutting his LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, from 98 mg/dL to 38 mg/dL.

About two and a half years after Joe adopted a strict plant-based diet, there came a point when he was exceptionally busy professionally, under considerable stress, and he noted a return of some discomfort in his chest. His cardiologists, worried about the recurrence of angina, asked for more tests to see what was going on.

On the day of his follow-up angiogram, I went to Dr. Crowe's office after work. After we greeted each other, I thought I saw moisture in his eyes. "Is everything OK?" I asked.

"You saved my life," he declared. "It's gone! It's not there anymore! Something lethal is gone! My follow-up angiogram was normal."

Nearly ten years later, Mary Lind recalled that they had wondered, that first evening at our house, "how the Esselstyns did it"—how we had managed to completely change the way we eat. "Now it's part of our family," she says. "We've eaten the same things for a long time, and I’m on autopilot."

Later, when I asked Joe what made him decide to change, he responded very simply. "We believed you," he said, and added, "since I had nothing else, the diet came first. If I had had bypass surgery, diet would not have been first. The diet set us on another path, empowered to do something we knew we could do."

In the book Dr. Esselstyn shows the two angiograms -- the first one shows a section of artery that is badly diseased and the second shows the artery of a teenager. Pretty cool.

I was waiting to get heart disease -- waiting for it to begin to affect my life. And now I'm not. Now I look forward to continuing to lose weight, to regaining as much mobility as I can, and to living for as many days as I have left. So many times we are -- or feel like -- victims of our health. I very often feel that way with my RA. With this, though, I feel empowered. I am heart-attack-proofing myself and I feel great about it!

I have an exciting recipe today. It's potato chips in the microwave! And they're not only not bad for you, they're GOOD for you!

You really need a mandoline or something similar because you want the slices to be very thin. And the same thickness, too. All you do is slice the potato (I didn't bother to peel mine) and put the slices on parchment paper. Put the paper directly onto the microwave turntable and cook them on high until golden brown spots begin to appear. When I just put slices around the perimeter of the turntable this took about two-and-a-half minutes. When I loaded up the turntable with more slices it took about four minutes. Anyway, let the slices sit there for one minute and then cook them on high again until they are brown all around like you can see in the picture. The chips in the bowl have been sprinkled with popcorn salt but Bruce made some with garlic salt and he sprinkled some with his old bottle of Montreal steak seasoning and they were very good, too. You can also dip them in cider vinegar before cooking if you like salt-and-vinegar chips.

The only down side is that it takes about six minutes to make a dozen chips. Still -- we had fun and I will definitely do this again!

More later...

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