Beating Heart Disease: Nothing With a Mother or a Face

Patch editor Tom Abate underwent coronary artery bypass surgery to treat heart disease. This is the third in a series of blogs sharing his journey from diagnosis to recovery.


It may sound like I proceeded at a steady pace. In fact things occurred in fits and starts. I actually missed my first appointment with the cardiologist, which was particularly irresponsible given that he had squeezed me in as a favor to my doc.

But at the time I didn't know that my life was hanging by a thread. I thought I had a mild case of heart disease that could be “fixed” with drugs or stents or diet, or some combination of the above.

Diet was something I could control so that's where I started.

I knew of Dr. Dean Ornish, a Bay Area doctor who has produced evidence that heart disease can be prevented and, in some cases, reversed by following a strict, plant-based diet. I found a similar author, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who imposes some restrictions beyond the Ornish plan. For instance, no nuts. 

I decided to adopt a Vegan and possibly macrobiotic diet. I’m not sure what all the words mean and where I stand on divisive issues such as whether or not to eat avocados.

So I cleaned out my fridge and pantry and resupplied myself with Vegan foods. It took two days. I just went cold turkey (ha-ha) and decided not to eat anything with a mother or a face.

You know how some people can get preachy when they change a habit or adopt a faith. I will not try to convince you of anything.

But in the course of looking for more evidence to justify my decision, I came across a 56-minute-long video showing how a Vegan diet affected the 15 leading causes of death in America. The presentation is delivered by Dr. Michael Greger, an entertaining speaker who makes this dreary subject funny.

In keeping with my promise not to try to convince you of anything, I issue this warning: DO NOT WATCH GREGER’S VIDEO if you do not wish to question your allegiance to the common American diet.

(See an archive of the blogs in this series.)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Rob Rich August 01, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Whew! For a moment there I was afraid we were again going to be coerced into reading those three treacherous words: "Soda Free Summer."
Carol Parker August 01, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I think it is the "cold turkey" part that scares most of us - making such a radical change all at once. Can one accrue benefits going vegetarian versus vegan or must you go whole hog? :) Giving up my egg whites and Smart balance spread would be a challenge.
Dan Arnhem August 01, 2012 at 05:56 PM
One can accrue benefits according to the level of change they choose. Smaller changes bring smaller benefits. If you've had a serious diagnosis and surgery, you may be highly motivated to go "whole hog". Vegetarian diets can range from excellent to very poor. Most doctors don't recommend vegan diets for all their patients because they realize that more than half their patients won't even make the moderate changes to a basic lower fat diet. Compliance, even in cardiac patients, is very poor going out a year or two. Bill Clinton is a good example. Initially he did a half way effort. Then he got a serious warning he was getting worse. So he finally went "whole hog" and is doing much better. No guarantees about the future, but I think going "whole hog" gives you a chance of halting progression rather than just slowing it down. Obviously changing one's diet years ahead of any potential diagnosis is ideal. But when we were growing up in the 50's, 60's and 70's, there was much less discussion of these choices.
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