I waited for about 30 minutes for my cardiologist to arrive. Poked and prodded by a nurse prior to his visit, I sat through a litany of questions about my health, diet, exercise, and general well being. Sitting behind a desk and furiously typing into a computer, Denise asked again, “wait, you are not eating any meat?” Yes, I responded. “And no dairy?” Right. She typed more information into the system. “Your scores are above the number that is the highest score…something must be wrong.” We went through the questions on diet again. She entered the information. Silence. “Huh,” she said, “I’ve never really seen anything like this.”
After testing my blood pressure, weight, and height, she entered more data into the system and instructed me to “wait for the doctor.” New blood work had arrived and the numbers showed more improvement and revealed what folks could see, the transformation of my body. I had a load of questions for my interventionist cardiologist. Honestly I did not expect to get much traction with these questions; I was pretty sure what was going to happen…the 5 minute consultation. That’s what WOULD have happened had I not been prepared to stop the doctor in his very brief analysis of my progress.
Sometimes, being prepared before you enter the doctor’s office is the most important step in taking control of your health. What I’ve found is that doctors, nurses, and most other health care professionals care about fixing you and then moving on to the next topic. Once you are in maintenance mode, taking care of yourself, they are much less interested in your health. So, when you have an appointment, do all of the research you can and ask as many questions as you can reasonably fit into the visit.
So, when the doctor walked in, with an assistant who took notes the entire time, it was meant to be very brief. How are you? Any symptoms? Want to get a stress test? If not then see you in 6 months…..that’s when I said, “I have a few questions.” Once I started my litany of interrogative statements, the doctor was dismissive. “You are on a vegan diet? Doesn’t matter.” “Okay, Dr. X, but my blood work? Can you explain the differences simply based on the drug therapy?” “Doesn’t matter. Just keep losing weight.” “Okay, what about the threat of Lipoprotein A? I’m testing for that in a month?” “Why? It doesn’t matter.” “Okay, but what about Niacin as a means of controlling the spread of Lipo(A) if the numbers are elevated?” “Just stay on a statin. That takes care of everything.” “But, Dr. X, the data shows…..” “Not important. Now, let’s listen to your heart.”
This brief summary of back and forth is the gist of what happened. Don’t get me wrong, he is a good interventionist doctor and fixed a serious problem I experienced. And, he was not interested, at all, in what I’m doing. Now, the money question, “Drs. Esselstyn and Ornish have shown in their studies that heart disease reversal is possible with this diet. What are your thoughts?” I got him. That question slowed him down a step. “Yes, there is some data supporting that idea, but the mechanism for plaque buildup is already in place in you and changing that would require changing your blood chemistry. Not likely in your case. You have a particular set of genetics that is working against you. If you have symptoms, give me a call. See you in six months.”
Did you read that? Changing my blood chemistry is exactly what this diet does. Altering the very structure of how my body develops plaque and reversing the process is why I began this journey in the first place. My doctor was not interested, at all, in what is changing in my body. If he was, he would see the dramatic changes happening internally. The most recent one? The drop in glucose and insulin levels. All on a plant-based diet. All including whole grain carbs. Not one ounce of meat, dairy, or fat that doesn’t come from plants. No olive oil. No oils at all.
Here’s the shocking truth; if you follow, strictly, a plant-based diet, it is possible you can see similar results. I’m my own test case. I am a study of one. My diet may not extend to the vast majority of humanity. Truth is, all I hear is how “radical” my diet is. At work, at school, at home, every single place I go, everything I read says what I am doing is virtually impossible. In my search for a clinical cardiologist, of the three I have talked to, they all said to me, “you are in the top 1% of patients” or “wow, that’s remarkable you have been able to keep that up” in addressing my heart disease. What? How can I be in the 1% of anything? Is that really true?
That’s the story for today. I still face many hurdles in my health. I still have to lose weight, still have to exercise, still have to stay focused and involved in my health. As for the folks who say it’s impossible, I’m saying: watch me.