When doctors make significant lifestyle changes for health improvement reasons, we tend to sit up and take notice. Well, pay attention everyone. The new leader of the American College of Cardiologists is vegan — and he thinks you should be, too.
Kim A. Williams, M.D., incoming president of the American College of Cardiology, discovered in 2003 that his LDL cholesterol level was a worrisome 170. He thought he’d been eating right. He avoided red meat, minimized dairy intake, focused his protein intake on fish and chicken. Sound familiar? You’re probably doing that, too.
A few months before getting that result, wrote Dr. Williams recently at MedPage Today, he had reviewed a nuclear scan for “very high risk” patient who suffered from a “severe three-vessel disease pattern of reversible ischemia.” In other words, the blood flow to her heart was partially obstructed. Her situation was of significant concern.
Upon that patient’s return visit six months later, Dr. Williams said he was amazed to see that her condition had vastly improved. Her chest pain was gone and her scan was back to normal. When he asked her what she’d done, she told him she’d gone vegan, began exercising and started meditating. Specifically, she’d followed the program outlined in Dr. Dean Ornish‘s “Reversing Heart Disease” program.
Dr. Williams remembered that remarkable patient when he got his LDL cholesterol result. Intrigued, he took a closer look at the Ornish program and the research behind it. He became convinced that Ornish’s highly positive patient outcomes “reached statistical significance.” That day, he wrote, he switched to a plant-based diet.
Not surprisingly, he reports, his bad cholesterol plummeted to 90 within six weeks. He’s been a vegan ever since. He says:
I often discuss the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet with patients who have high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, or coronary artery disease. I encourage these patients to go to the grocery store and sample different plant-based versions of many of the basic foods they eat.
Dr. Ornish responded to Dr. Williams’ blog post with one of his own. He noted:
A recent study found that animal protein dramatically increases the risk of premature death independent of fat and carbohydrates. In a study of over 6,000 people, those ages 50 to 65 who reported eating diets high in animal protein had a 75% increase in overall mortality, a 400% increase in cancer deaths, and a 500% increase in type 2 diabetes during the following 18 years.
“After a week, [Dr. Williams' post is] still the no. 1 most-read cardiovascular article on MedPage Today,” Dr. Ornish added. “I admire Williams for his courage and leadership.”
Certainly, Dr. Williams and Dr. Ornish aren’t the only respected doctors who urge people to adopt a vegan diet and other lifestyle changes for health reasons. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, conducted a study with patients suffering advanced coronary artery disease. Some of them had been told they had less than a year to live.
Dr. Esselstyn put them on a plant-based, oil-free diet. The 17 patients who religiously followed his program thrived — some of them living up to 20 symptom-free years beyond initial projections. None experienced a cardiac event after going vegan. Before they did so, collectively they’d experienced 49 cardiac events.
These results speak for themselves, folks.
Dr. Williams knows he and his colleagues need to treat the cause of heart disease rather than merely address its symptoms. His ultimate desire is an exciting one:
Wouldn’t it be a laudable goal of the American College of Cardiology to put ourselves out of business within a generation or two? We have come a long way in prevention of cardiovascular disease, but we still have a long way to go. Improving our lifestyles with improved diet and exercise will help us get there.
If the plight of factory farmed animals hasn’t convinced you to stop eating meat, dairy and eggs, how about improving your own health?
Eating vegan doesn’t mean you’ll have to sustain yourself on foods that taste like cardboard and grass. Now more than ever, wonderful, tasty and healthy plant-based food choices are available everywhere. Take the plant-based plunge and see what happens.
What’s the worst possible outcome? Afraid you’ll live longer or something?
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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