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.
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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. 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. Nonetheless, he had been struck—and struck hard. My subject is coronary artery disease, its cause, and the revolutionary treatment, available to all, that can abolish it and that has saved Joe Crowe and many others.
My message is clear and absolute: coronary artery disease need not exist, and if it does, it need not progress. It is my dream that one day we may entirely abolish heart disease, the scourge of the affluent, modern West, along with an impressive roster of other chronic illnesses. Here are the facts. Coronary artery disease is the leading killer of men and women in Western civilization. In the United States alone, more than half a million people die of it every single year. Three times that number suffer known heart attacks.
In the course of a lifetime, one out of every two American men and one out of every three American women will have some form of the disease.
The cost of this epidemic is enormous—greater, by far, than that of any other disease. But here is the truly shocking statistic: nearly all of that money is devoted to treating symptoms. It pays for cardiac drugs, for clot-dissolving medications, and for costly mechanical techniques that bypass clogged arteries or widen them with balloons, tiny rotating knives, lasers, and stents.
All of these approaches carry significant risk of serious complications, including death. And even if they are successful, they provide only temporary relief from the symptoms. They do nothing at all to cure the underlying disease or to prevent its development in other potential victims. I believe that we in the medical profession have taken the wrong course. It is as if we were simply standing by, watching millions of people march over a cliff, and then intervening in a desperate, last-minute attempt to save them once they have fallen over the edge.
Instead, we should be teaching them how to avoid the chasm entirely, how to walk parallel to the precipice so that they will never fall at all. I believe that coronary artery disease is preventable, and that even after it is underway, its progress can be stopped, its insidious effects reversed. I believe, and my work over the past twenty years has demonstrated, that all this can be accomplished without expensive mechanical intervention and with minimal use of drugs.
The key lies in nutrition—specifically, in abandoning the toxic American diet and maintaining cholesterol levels well below those historically recommended by health policy experts. The bottom line of the nutritional program I recommend is that it contains not a single item of any food known to cause or promote the development of vascular disease.
I often ask patients to compare their coronary artery disease to a house fire. Your house is on fire because eating the wrong foods has given you heart disease. You are spraying gasoline on the fire by continuing to eat the very same foods that caused the disease in the first place.
Stopping the gasoline puts out the fire. Reforming the way you eat will end the heart disease. Here are the rules of my program in their simplest form : You may not eat anything with a mother or a face no meat, poultry, or fish.
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 a wonderful variety of delicious, nutrient-dense foods : All vegetables except avocado. Leafy green vegetables, root vegetables, veggies that are red, green, purple, orange, and yellowand everything in between 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. It works. In the first continuous twelve-year study of the effects of nutrition in severely ill patients, which I will describe in this book, those who complied with my program achieved total arrest of clinical progression and significant selective reversal of coronary artery disease.
In fully compliant patients, we have seen angina disappear in a few weeks and abnormal stress test results return to normal. And consider the case of Joe Crowe. 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. 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. 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. After we greeted each other, I thought I saw moisture in his eyes. Something lethal is gone! My follow-up angiogram was normal. 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.
It is the most complete resolution of coronary artery disease I have seen, graphic proof of the power of plant-based nutrition to enable the body to heal itself. The dietary changes that have helped my patients over the past twenty years can help you, too. They can actually make you immune to heart attacks. And there is considerable evidence that they have benefits far beyond coronary artery disease. If you eat to save your heart, you eat to save yourself from other diseases of nutritional extravagance: from strokes, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, adult-onset diabetes, and possibly senile mental impairment, as well.
You gain protection from a host of other ailments that have been linked to dietary factors, including impotence and cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, rectum, uterus, and ovaries. An increasing number of doctors are aware that diet plays a crucial role in health, and that nutritional changes such as those I recommend can have dramatic effects on the development and progression of disease.
But for a number of reasons, current medical practice places little emphasis on primary and secondary prevention. For most physicians, nutrition is not of significant interest.
It is not an essential pillar of medical education; each generation of medical students learns about a different set of pills and procedures, but receives almost no training in disease prevention. And in practice, doctors are not rewarded for educating patients about the merits of truly healthy lifestyles. Over the past one hundred years, the mechanical treatment of disease has increasingly dominated the medical profession in the United States.
Surgery is the prototype, and its dramatic progress— light-years removed from the cathartics, bloodletting, and amputations that dominated medicine in previous centuries—is nothing short of breathtaking. But surgery has serious flaws. It is expensive, painful, and frightening, often disabling and disfiguring, and too often merely a temporary stopgap against the disease it is intended to treat. It is a mechanical approach to a biological problem.
Perhaps no area of medicine better illustrates the mechanical approach to disease than cardiology and cardiac surgery. Consider: the United States contains just 5 percent of the global population, but every year, physicians in American hospitals perform more than 50 percent of all the angioplasties and bypass procedures in the entire world. One reason is that mechanical medicine is romantic and dramatic, a natural magnet for media attention.
Remember the drama several years ago surrounding implants of artificial hearts? Most of the recipients died within weeks of their surgery, and all lived their last days tethered to life-support machinery that, far from enhancing their quality of life, drastically reduced it. But no matter: the dramatic interventions engaged the national imagination for months on end.
Modern hospitals offer almost nothing to enhance public health. They are cathedrals of sickness. There are some signs of change. Physicians and researchers increasingly agree that lifestyle changes—controlling blood pressure, stopping smoking, reducing cholesterol, exercising, and modifying diets—are essential to overall health.
It is hard to deny the evidence, mounting with every passing year, that people who have spent a lifetime consuming the typical American diet are in dire trouble. In , cardiologist David Waters of the University of California performed a study that compared the results of angioplasty—in which a balloon is inserted into a coronary artery to widen the vessel and improve blood flow—with the use of drugs to aggressively reduce serum cholesterol levels.
There was no disputing the outcome. The patients who had the drug treatment to lower cholesterol had fewer hospitalizations for chest pain and fewer heart attacks than those who underwent angioplasty and standard postoperative care. The larger lesson of that study is that systemic treatment of disease through aggressive reduction of cholesterol is clearly superior to selective intervention at a single site where an artery has been clogged and narrowed.
And it caused considerable uproar among cardiologists. As Dr. For many years, I resisted that conclusion, but the weight of the evidence is overwhelming. Interventional cardiologists earn hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, and particularly busy ones make millions. In addition, cardiology procedures generate huge revenues for hospitals.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn on How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease with Nutrition
Esselstyn is an internationally known surgeon, researcher and former clinician at the Cleveland Clinic and a featured expert in the acclaimed documentary Forks Over Knives. The proof lies in the incredible outcomes for patients who have followed Dr. Within months of starting the program, all Dr. Complete with more than delicious recipes perfect for a plant-based diet, the national bestseller Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease explains the science behind the simple plan that has drastically changed the lives of heart disease patients forever.
232: Heart Disease
Most people resort to medication but my guest today, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, will teach us how to reverse heart disease through diet. In fact, he has the longest running track record for success. Early Years Dr.