The Vegan Notebook – Start of a Personal Journey

Start a vegan plant-based diet in order to clean up arteries and veins, lose weight from an obese body, stop taking pills for cholesterol, and save money.

Vegan plant-based diets have recently attracted a great deal of attention. Even TV celebrity Oprah Winfrey invited her staff to try a vegan diet for one week. She called it The Vegan Challenge . Kathy Freston, a New York Times best-selling author, help facilitate the week, which saw 378 staffers take up the challenge. Three hundred staff completed The Vegan Challenge, many with positive results. It was so successful that Oprah and her staff instituted ‘Meatless Mondays’.
Americans and Canadians are addicted to meat-based diets. Unfortunately, meat-based diets swamp humans with unneeded cholesterol. So much so that statin drugs, which lower cholestrol output from the liver, like Lipitor and Zocor are huge money makers for their manufacturers.
Recently my wife asked our family doctor, “How can I stop taking Lipitor?”
“If you really want to get off the cholesterol pills, I would like you to read a book titled Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” was the doctor’s response.
His answer launched us on a new adventure – a vegan plant-based diet and lifestyle.
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
Written by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., who works as a cardiologist, clinician and surgeon at the world famous Cleveland Clinic, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease highlights the critical importance of a vegan plant-based diet. It also includes his personal twelve year study of twenty-four cardiac patients.
Read on
• Famous African American Vegans
• Veganism’s New Era
• The Benefits of Vegan Living
Dr. Esselstyn advocates that we should eat no foods with ‘a face’ or ‘a mother’. Therefore, no meat, no eggs, no dairy. Moreover, his diet regime also calls for no oils (e.g., olive oil, canola oil). That’s right, no oils. He recommends only one type of nut for consumption – the walnut – and only if you have no heart disease, and only because it contains lots of omega-3′s. But in general, no nuts either.
What motivated Dr. Esselstyn to write his book? In his practice he noted that many of his patients were in desperate shape having had heart attacks, strokes or suffering from advanced atherosclerosis. He could see first-hand the physical and emotional costs of poor diet and lifestyle. He needed to highlight the importance of a vegan plant-based diet.
The Economic Costs of Heart Disease
The economic costs of heart disease are staggering. Here are three selected quotes:
• The United States spends more than $250 billion a year on heart disease. (Esselstyn, 2008, p.4)
• Heart disease and stroke costs the Canadian economy more than $22.2 billion every year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity. (Tracking Heart Disease and Stroke in Canada. Released June 2009.)
• CVD [cardiovascular diseases] cost the health care system in the UK around £14.4 [$23.4 USD] billion in 2006. This represents a cost per capita of just under £250 [$405 USD]. The cost of hospital care for people who have CVD accounts for about 72% of these costs, whereas 20% of the cost is due to drugs. (British Heart Foundation Statistics Website)
Why these terrible numbers?
Maybe I’m being simplistic but it’s seems so obvious: obesityThe National Institutes of Health writes, “Overweight and obesity pose a major public health challenge.”
Definition for BMI: BMI describes body weight relative to height and is strongly correlated with total body fat content in adults… the guidelines identified overweight as a BMI of 25 to 29.9 and obesity as a BMI of 30 and above. (NIH, First Federal Obesity Clinical Guidelines, 1998) contains a chart with some very disturbing data from the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) on what might be characterize as the obesity disease. The numbers contained in this chart are from 2005 and are based on body mass index (BMI) figures gathered from the participating countries.
A quick scan of the chart shows that the United States is #1 in obesity -30.6%, the United Kingdom is #2 – 23%and Canada is #11 – 14.3%.
The correlation between obesity and heart disease is well documented. Atherosclerosis is clearly a big problem; but so is hypertension.
The American Heart organization has published a paper titled Obesity: Impact on Cardiovacular disease in which the authors write, “The effects of obesity on cardiovascular health and disease are many, one of the most profound of which is hypertension. Risk estimates from population studies suggest that >=75% of hypertension can be directly attributed to obesity.”
Dr. Esselstyn’s Study Results
Dr. Esselstyn’s book tells the tale of eighteen of his cardiac patients (the study began with 24 – six dropped out early on), and how they fared in a twelve year study. At the study’s beginning, the patients had experienced in total fourty-nine cardiovascular events including increased angina(15), measurable disease progression(13), by-pass surgery(7), heart attacks(4), strokes(3), angioplasty procedures(2), and worsening stress tests(2).
When the study ended, the results were stunning. I have included two results drawn from the book:
• total cholesterol for each patient averaged below 150 mg/dL (the target) – originally it averaged 246 mg/dL for each
• angiograms for 11 patients showed that the diet had arrested the progression of heart disease, and in eight, reversed it
“What has occurred with all these people is very basic: the blood supply through their coronary arteries to their heart muscle has improved… Profound reduction of cholesterol has increased the capacity of the endothelium… to produce nitric oxide, which in turn dilates the arteries themselves – even diseased arteries.” (Esselstyn, 2008, p. 53)
Former President Bill Clinton and his Vegan Diet
In May of 2010, Bill Clinton began a vegan diet because serious cardiovascular problems. His 2004 quadruple by-pass surgery had been compromised by a bad diet, and in early 2010 he needed more heart surgery to save his life. One of the four replaced veins was 100% blocked, and required two stents.
He had read Dr. Esselstyn’s book and Dr. Dean Ornish’s book (Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease) and began a plant-based diet with no oils. He lost 24 pounds in a few months and is reversing his heart disease. Wolf Blitzer has CNN interview with Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Ornish on Bill Clinton’s diet.
Both my wife and I also read both Esselstyn’s and Ornish’s books. They were big eye-openers, and the bottom line was simple. We did not want to be two more depressing cardiac statistics.
Starting a New Lifestyle
So we chose to start a lifestyle using a vegan plant-based diet with no oils. We wanted to clean up our arteries and veins, to lose weight, to get more fit, and to save money by not buying expensive cholesterol pills and hypertension.
There are, however, some challenges with our new diet and lifestyle. The biggest one is finding tasty recipes. But we are succeeding. At this time, I have lost 15 pounds and I am documenting my progress at my blog. Together my wife and I now cook together and enjoy homemade food like pea soup, whole wheat bread, and tofu chilli: all without fats or oils.
Some Resources to Start a Vegan Plant-based Lifestyle
The book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease is a good start ans so in Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. Both have vegan plant-based recipes. Sr. Caldwell’s book has 150 vegan plant-based recipes with no oils. but there is also many resources on the web.


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