Letter To a Heart Disease Patient

While taking my course in plant-based nutrition, we had to write several short essays. This was an assignment after studying the work of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. I will include a video after this post that covers much of the material taught in this unit.

The question posed to the class was:

A close friend has heart disease. He is willing to consider altering his diet, but his cardiologist tells him his condition could be easily managed with medication, and the friend is concerned about missing out on all that is good (and fatty) in life. Without giving medical advice, discuss his options with him, as you see them.

My response:

I know this must be difficult, perhaps the most difficult thing you have ever faced. I know you’re not alone.  In fact I’m glad you are able to do something about it in time, some die of a heart attack not even realizing they had a problem. Now, I am not a doctor, but I have been spending a lot of time studying the effect of nutrition on our body, especially as it relates to disease. The most important thing that I have learned about heart disease is that much of it has been caused by our many years of eating the typical American diet consisting of a lot of meat, dairy and oils.

As I have come to understand, we have a layer of cells inside our arteries that make all the difference between having blood flow efficiently, or having things clog up, or worse, stop. These cells, called endothelial cells are hugely impacted by the amount of cholesterol we eat. You see, these cells produce nitric oxide which is the key to having healthy vessels. This gas is what allows healthy arteries to dilate when you put stress on them, like when you exercise. When we consume cholesterol, these cells become sticky, and cannot produce the nitric oxide. I know that is some technical stuff, the main point being that we can all reverse the negative effects of many years of torturing these cells by switching to a plant based diet, and by avoiding plant based foods heavy in omega-6 fatty acids like oil and nuts.

There are so many other benefits to switching our diet, among them avoiding other diseases like cancer and diabetes, and improving our battle with the aging process. You see, fruits and vegetables are full of good things including anti-oxidants which help us maintain healthy cells throughout our bodies, and, as a result of improving your circulation, we reduce the damage to our brains so that we can slow down the process of memory loss or even Alzheimer’s disease.

So you have everything to gain, and nothing to lose by switching your diet. If this isn’t enough to convince you, look at some of the cultures that have a very healthy diet such as parts of rural China, or Papua Highlanders or the Tarahumar Indians of northern Mexico where there are virtually no instances of heart disease.

It has been exciting learning about all of this, and I too have switched my diet after seeing my cholesterol levels climb, so together we can work to rebuild our arteries and overall health. I am certain that if together we can go 90 days without any of the bad fats the cravings will cease.  We can both get our blood checked often to see if we can get you off of the medications.

If you are interested I would be happy to loan you some great books to catch you up on what I have learned.

Here is a talk given by Dr. Esselstyn

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