Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to discuss heart disease because it is all about L-O-V-E. Here is an idea: Demonstrate your love by preparing and sharing delicious, plant based foods and save your loved ones from threats of heart disease (and other chronic diseases)! I want to tell you and your family about my husband’s heart attack because it is the impetus for this website and my entire educational video program! Yes, his heart disease and consequent heart attack started us on this wonderful, life-affirming journey. Spoiler Alert: Yes, he reversed his heart disease. You can reverse heart disease too!

What happened at the hospital?

It was in April 2005, a slushy, snowy, cold spring in Colorado. When I came downstairs early Saturday morning, I noticed he was dressed and sitting on the couch looking weird. This was unusual. He said he felt clammy, somewhat funny, and had gone for a walk super early in the morning. We talked for a minute and he said, “I wonder if there is something wrong, should I go to urgent care”. I said, “Of course not we are going to the ER!”

It was still early and the ER wasn’t crowded. There was a big sign explaining that if you feel any kind of chest pain to tell the receptionist. He explained how he felt, and wow things started to happen! BOOM! It was like on TV! Everyone whipped into super high gear. I tried to stay out of the way as all sorts of medical technicians and nurses ran in and out of the room. It was terrifying. Finally, after a bunch of tests, we heard the news he had had a heart attack. More terror. Howard’s father had a heart attack and three weeks later had another one and died. This is very common.

Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the US. This is not new. For a long time, heart disease has been the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US and other Western countries. For many, death is the first symptom of heart disease. 50% of men and 64% of women who have a fatal heart attack have no previous symptoms. That’s scary. Like a ticking time bomb!

Every 25 seconds, an American has a coronary event. Every minute, an American dies from one.

To make a long agonizing story short, my husband had severely blocked arteries and they wanted to put in four stents to keep his arteries open. He had the surgery a few days later, which went well; he received excellent care, and we all felt a bit calmer. Whew!

Next, he had terrible side effects to the medication!

Then, he had terrible adverse reactions to the medication, Lipitor. The Doctors said he would have to remain on statin medication for the rest of his life. However, the medication made his body hurt all over. He was in agony. Even after reducing the dose by half, he was miserable. Rhabdomyolysis is a horrible side effect where your entire body hurts and you are in agonizing muscle pain. He learned if he continued taking the medication he could have develop kidney damage. Howard got justifiably very upset, very angry, and anxious. What was he going to do if he couldn’t take the medicine? Would he die in a few weeks like his dad?

Late one night, he was online and learned about whole food, plant based nutrition. He read about doctors and amazing research. You will learn more about this in the educational video program. He felt hope for the first time! He decided to do it starting the next day. Of course, I agreed – as a demonstration of love how could I refuse. I began to learn more about how to cook and prepare food, which I talk about in sessions #6 and #7.

What did he learn about reversing heart disease?

Research shows that atherosclerosis that clogs arteries begins in youth. Fatty streaks and clinically significant lesions in arteries increase rapidly and spread in young people’s arteries between the ages of 15- to 34. This means many of our young people are already at risk. Especially if they are overweight and/or sedentary. My husband had many years of eating an artery clogging diet!

He learned that doctors were able to reverse severe coronary heart disease with a whole food, no oil, and plant-based diet. (That means no animal-based foods, cheese, dairy, fish, etc.) In one study, the diet stopped the progression of the disease, and 70% of the patients saw an opening of their clogged arteries.

My husband learned that plant based nutrition could reverse heart disease! Whole grains, whole foods, all plant based, tons of fruit and vegetables is key. If you have heart disease, you can fix it. He learned about a healthy lifestyle beyond the diet. He learned that there were other things he could change to reverse his heart disease.

What can you change to reduce and reverse heart disease?

Esteemed Dr. Greger puts is very clearly. He says, “No matter where we live, how old we are, or what we look like, health researchers have discovered that 90% of having a first heart attack can be attributed to eight modifiable risk factors. The factors that we can change that could save our lives include (1) smoking, (2) too much bad cholesterol, (3) high blood pressure, (4) diabetes, (5) abdominal obesity, (6) stress, (7) a lack of daily fruit and veggie consumption, as well as a (8) lack of daily exercise. No matter what our genetic makeup is, all eight of these factors can change. They are dependent upon the choices we make in our daily lifestyle. Bingo! My husband learned that every day he could do things to help his heart be healthier. These eight factors would help him reverse his heart disease, and you bet they did!

What about his prescription medication for heart disease?

Lipid lowering medications like Lipitor do offer 30% fewer new heart attacks, 30% fewer heart attack deaths, and 30% interventions. Whoa, wait! What about the other 70%? What about the cost and the hassle? What about adverse reactions and side effects? People like my husband simply cannot take most prescription medications because he is susceptible to their side effects. The FDA has issued warnings on side effects from Lipitor that include memory loss, confusion, an increase in blood sugar (hello, that’s diabetes), less energy and more fatigue especially for women. As of 2012, 23% of Americans aged 40 and older took cholesterol-lowering drugs, which have been found to increase your risk for Type II Diabetes by 46%!

Back in 2005, Howard told his doctor he would not take the medication and would only eat food that did not clog his arteries … It worked! This was a very personal decision and he took it seriouslyThat is why we are here today. Now almost 12 years later, he is going strong. He is super healthy and works out in the gym three times a week, is active every day. You can see him in a video here! His remarkable story has lead us to share this knowledge with you. Please learn from our experience that yes, you can escape heart disease!

The evidence is clear: the Standard American Diet (SAD) is not health promoting, while the whole food, plant based diet is healthy, inexpensive, AND delicious! It’s been almost 12 years for us, and we could never go back. Both my husband and I feel great! I’m at my slimmest without even trying, never get sick, have tons of energy, and sleep soundly.

The bottom line:

After the first (and thankfully only) heart attack, his cardiologist prescribed my husband medicine, Lipitor, which he could not take. We read all about a plant based diet and reversing heart disease and learned a lot! Finally! We felt hope for the very first time. Howard was nervous about what to eat; it was pretty stressful! I totally understand the emotions around wanting to change your nutrition after decades of eating meaty deli sandwiches, burgers, eggs, cheese, and ice cream. It takes commitment and planning to transition to a whole food, plant based diet. This is why I teach how and why to transition to a whole food, plant based diet in my program. It really isn’t that hard. We obviously got over our fear; and have never looked back. I invite you to learn more! You can reverse heart disease (and other chronic diseases) with a healthy plant based lifestyle! View or read my educational program. Take the risk of feeling fabulous! Happy Eating!

Photo: Thank you Mayur Gala at Unsplash