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THE POWER OF FOOD, TWO PATIENT STORIES

 

February 3, 2017



This week I’d like to 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 fifteen 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 pre-diabetes. He also increased my statin to the maximum dose of the strongest statin (40 mg. of Crestor) and the maximum dose of niacin (2000 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 twelve 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 pre-diabetes because those 2 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 6 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% 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% still need pills (e.g. if they have severe hypertension or atherosclerotic heard disease), so we’re lucky we have pills available when we need them.

Remember to sign up for Dr. Greger’s (“How Not to Die” book, nutritionfacts.org) on February 9th, by going to [email protected], sponsored by the VVH Connie Delaney Memorial Medical Library.

Greg Feinsinger, M.D., retired from 42 years of family medicine at Glenwood Medical Associates and now lives in Carbondale, Colorado. He has a non-profit called “Center for Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition” and can be contacted at [email protected] or 970-379-5718.

 

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