Doctor’s Tip: Two patients’ success stories
I’m sure that some of you will be glad to know that I just have two more columns about foods we need to avoid if we want optimal health: salt, and foods with toxins. This week I’d like to take a break from that and present two patient stories.
First, my own: My father had hypertension and Parkinson’s for many years and died at 81 of complications from a stroke. Other family members on his side died from heart attacks and strokes. My mother died at 81 of Alzheimer’s, and her grandmother had diabetes. As I was growing up in the 1940s and ’50s, my family ate what most Americans ate: lots of whole-fat dairy products; ice cream; eggs; meat including fatty red meat, chicken and processed meat (e.g. bacon, sausage and lunch meat); refined carbohydrates such as white bread; and sugar.
The University of Colorado School of Medicine taught medical students about pills and procedures but nothing about nutrition and very little about prevention. They did teach us about cholesterol, and I found out that mine was high. When statins came out in the late 1970s I went on one and have been on various statins ever since.
About 15 years ago I had a coronary calcium score done in Denver, which showed significant atherosclerosis, in spite of regular exercise and what I thought was a reasonably healthy diet. I saw Brad Bale, M.D., author of “Beat The Heart Attack Gene” as a patient some 10 years ago, and he put me on a pill for high blood pressure and one for prediabetes. He also increased my statin to the maximum dose of the strongest statin (40 mg. of Crestor) and the maximum dose of niacin (2,000 mg.).
Then five years ago a nurse practitioner friend suggested that my wife and I read “The China Study.” We found the information so compelling that we immediately went on a plant-based, whole food, moderately low fat diet. In one month I lost 12 pounds and ever since then I have weighed what I did when I graduated from high school.
In a month I was able to stop my pills for hypertension and prediabetes because those two conditions resolved. I am now on 500 mg. of niacin and a weak statin (40 mg. of simvastatin). My blood pressure runs about 110/70, and my recent cholesterol was 100 with HDL 48, LDL 52, triglycerides 41. I feel great and beat people in Nordic ski and running races who used to beat me. My wife and I enjoy plant-based dishes at least as much as what we used to eat.
Here’s patient number 2: I met Anthony S. on a trip to St. John’s Island (he was a relative of friends we were staying with). He was 47, had worked as a stonemason, and for a few years had been having pain and swelling in his feet, hands and wrists, which seemed to be worse after eating meat.
His symptoms became severe enough that he couldn’t work and said in a thank-you letter to me that he “was a mess.” I saw that he was overweight and suggested that he watch the documentary “Forks Over Knives” and consider going on a plant-based diet, given that this diet is anti-inflammatory (an animal-based diet causes inflammation).
After six weeks, his pain and swelling were gone and he was back at work. He notes in his letter that “as an added benefit I came down to a healthy weight and my blood pressure improved dramatically and friends remarked that my complexion made me look years younger. There is no going back to the S.A.D. (standard American diet) for us! I am so lucky that my wife rose to the challenge of plant-based cooking, and was able to make it a delicious transition. Now I find our food is so varied and much more interesting than the way we used to eat. My tastes have changed and now I truly enjoy it. I am currently pain-free and enjoying life.”
As doctors we are supposed to prevent and relieve pain and suffering. Since I learned about the power of food five years ago and started advocating that my patients adopt a plant-based lifestyle, I have had more success stories (weight loss, lower blood pressure and blood sugar and cholesterol, and feeling better) than I had in decades of prescribing pills.
Now, not everyone is willing to go 100 percent of the way with regular exercise and plant-based nutrition, so they often need pills. And even some of the people who do go 100 percent still need pills (e.g. if they have severe hypertension or atherosclerotic heart disease), so we’re lucky we have pills available when we need them.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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