'Heart attack proof' diet worked for me
August 19th, 2011
10:42 AM ET

'Heart attack proof' diet worked for me

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was lying in my hospital bed anxiously waiting for another unwanted heart catheterization. I was questioning how this could be happening to me again.

After all, I was only 41 years old. I was in pretty good shape. I didn’t smoke. I ate pretty well. Bad luck, bad genes, what was causing me to need a fifth heart procedure? It was easy to start feeling sorry for myself.

Then I thought about the book that I just finished reading for the second time since my last heart procedure that was sadly and inexplicably preformed just five months prior. It inspired me to pick up my iPad and search for the book’s author Dr. Esselstyn.

Esselstyn's  'heart attack proof' diet

Within seconds I was watching a CNN video on YouTube with Wolf Blitzer interviewing President Bill Clinton, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Dean Ornish on how one might prevent and even reverse heart disease through diet and exercise. Motivated to go further, I then found Dr.Esselstyn’s office number on the internet and called without having any reasonable expectation that he could be reached.

Will you have a heart attack? These tests can tell

To my surprise, his assistant Jackie answered the phone and told me that she would have Dr. Esselstyn return my call as soon as possible. As I hung up the phone, I had to scratch my head and question whether a famous doctor and author in Cleveland who I had just watched on CNN, who didn’t know me from Adam, would return my call as I lay there helplessly in my hospital bed.

To my surprise he did.

I had been rolled into the waiting/recovery room for the catheterization lab when my cell phone rang, that I am pretty sure I was not supposed to be using in the hospital, with Dr. Esselstyn calling. He caringly asked about my health history, blood work results and current symptoms that had led me back to the hospital again that day.

Sadly, he admitted that there was only so much he could do as I was literally minutes from being rolled into the next room to have the catheterization performed, but he did promise that he was convinced there was a way that I could prevent this hospital visit from ever happening again and that I would be hearing from him soon.

Moments later, my heart catheterization had begun and three hours later I was back in my hospital room in tears realizing that I just had three more stents placed around my heart.

In the nine years that preceded that day, I had progressively lost hope. After my first of eight stents were placed at the age of 31, a friend had given me a book called  "Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease." After reading it I was inspired and confident that I could prevent this from ever happening again.

I then reached out to those that I thought I could trust - doctors, cardiologists, even a nutritionist to validate what I had read. It is safe to say that my confidence quickly turned to confusion. I remember stating, “If eating tree bark and water would keep me out of the hospital, then that is what I would do." Sadly, rather than confirmation, I instead was told that it was not necessary or even realistic that I commit to the lifestyle changes recommend by the book.

Nine years and eight stents later, I can’t help but think that the advice I received was well intentioned but nonetheless wrong.

After my fourth catheterization last June, I decided enough was enough and that there had to be a better way to go. I switched to a doctor that was part of the MDVIP program (focusing on  preventive, personalized health care) that had a nutritionist on staff. During my visit with the nutritionist, she recommended strongly that I read Dr. Esselstyn’s book "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease." After immediately reading the book cover to cover, I once again visited with my doctor and cardiologist who were clearly more supportive than my experience from years before, but there still was a suggestion that what I had read was too extreme, unrealistic, and even unnecessary.

Still confused, I did eat much better and exercised regularly. However, I did not follow what was recommended in the book to the letter. I found myself back in the hospital again that November.

Since that day in the hospital, I have not allowed any professional’s opinion or excuse to deter me from implementing what Dr. Esselstyn recommends. I attended his one day program at the Cleveland Clinic in December. My diet has consisted exclusively of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans with no added oils, nuts, seeds or avocado.

What your cholesterol numbers really mean

I have lost 48 pounds. My blood work has gone from total cholesterol of 208, LDL of 93, HDL of 41, and triglycerides of 368 last June to most recent results of total cholesterol of 89, LDL of 19, HDL of 53, and triglycerides of 83. That transformation is nothing short of amazing.

My next challenge is where to go next with my heart medications, which would seem to be unnecessary based on the miraculous change in my blood work.

I don’t blame my doctors, my cardiologists or nutritionists over the years. I believe they had my best interest at heart. I do believe, however, that the world deserves better advice on how to live a long and happy life, free of heart and other diseases.

I know there are no guarantees in life, but I am convinced beyond belief that I am on the right track. If I can do it, I know that anyone else can. They just need to be given a chance by being pointed in the right direction. Hopefully those hearing about my life experiences will help them avoid taking nine years to figure it out as it did with me.

soundoff (1,261 Responses)
  1. TM

    Congratulations! I don't think the diet is extreme at all..I find the SAD diet extreme and it is sad to be conditioned to think of it as normal when it is anything but.

    August 19, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. bill

    I need no convincing, I already knew all this about the right eating and the irrelevance of the numbers as long as you are healthy. But I just checked online the Esselstyn diet and it says no nuts. Wait a minute. I have never seen a fat squirrel. I personally don't like to eat nuts because they make me cough, but I think they are among the most healthy foods. I would say, almost everything NATURAL, unchanged food is healthy. Except, of course excessive animal fat. I stay away from meat because of the many additives and cruelty in raising and slaughtering them.

    August 19, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Monica

      We have fat squirrels here in Worthington, OH... they rob my bird feeders of black oil sunflower seeds daily, and I've seen them eat tree nuts and crabapples as well. They're eating natural, and they are FAT.

      August 19, 2011 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      It says no nuts except walnuts (occasional) if you are a cardiac patient. It's not about the fat per se but about keeping the arterial walls healthy and the way the fats in the nuts disrupt this cycle. If you are not a cardiac patient then nuts are still a 'go'.

      August 20, 2011 at 10:58 | Report abuse |
    • charls

      Monica the squirrels maybe fat but they taste so good. Or so I have been told.

      September 3, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
    • KEN

      Nuts when eaten in the natural way were probably healthy. but the natural way means picking them off the ground, then cracking them, and then pulling the nut out of the shell. It does not mean getting a bag or jar of them and eating ounces at a time. They were also seasonal. You may want to rethink your position about them.

      May 12, 2015 at 07:50 | Report abuse |
  3. Dan

    Great story. I hope this really works because it's no fun to go on grains and beans. If the cholesterol numbers have a direct correlation to blocked arteries, the diet may be worth it (there may be other factors though). The previous numbers of 208, 93, 41 are not bad at all, however the triglycerides were extremely high at 368.

    August 19, 2011 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jen

    I am also and 'Essestyner'. Heart attack at 38 one stent, followed all the docs guidelines and American Heart Associations and cardiac rehab. Second stent 6 months later. I could not understand why I was back when I had done everything I was told. Genius husband found Esselstyn's book. Whole family went 'plant based'. Yup, food is tasty enough for small children too. One year later I'm 22lbs lighter and due to great bloodwork only on aspirin and B vitamin. The first 2 months eating this way were challenge but now it's normal for all of us. If you have heart disease try it – what do you have to lose?

    August 19, 2011 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Corey

      Sage advice and great news for you! I will change one statement.......Even if you DO NOT have heart desease,
      everyone should be eating this way! I dont have heart desease and still have started eating this way. I love it!


      September 21, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse |
  5. Dil

    Hi everyone,
    I had a mild silent heart attack as well but never noticed it until I passed out on March 2011. I was hospitalized. Doctors did the Cardic Cath and found out that I had previous heart attack at least 10 months or so ago. I was surprised that I never noticed such an event but it had happened without any notice or any symptoms. Now I am living with small scar on my heart because they could not do angioplasty. Right after I got out of the hospital I came to know about the Dr. Esselstyn's Book and I have been following it since then. I feel great being vegan and I am doing alright, no further event or any chest pain. I lost 20 pounds in 3 months. I highly recommend to follow this book to all if you already have heart problems. But I also recommend to everyone to do the VAP blood test (usually Doctor won't tell you to do it my Doctor did not tell me when I had high LDL Level) it will tell all the story about your Cholesterol level and the chances of having heart disease and heart attack in future. Good Luck and I wish your good health.....

    August 19, 2011 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mark V

    Tommy, this is a great story to be proud of. You look great. Please stay healthy.

    August 19, 2011 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Michael Velli

    This is news? More like a thinly disguised product placement piece.

    August 20, 2011 at 04:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tommy Carruthers

      Mike V, it saddens me that you think my taking the time to share with others about my struggle with heart disease is a "thinly disguised product placement piece". I assure you it is not, but rather it is my effort to communicate to others that there is hope. Shame on you for undermining this effort.

      August 20, 2011 at 06:54 | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      Mike V, nope, this is about Hope and a healthy future for those of us with cardiac disease not product placement. I want to see my children get married and being an Esselstyner has improved my chances. Sorry you are so cynical.

      August 20, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse |
    • Mark G

      Mike, This is not a product placement, but rather a product not placement article. The concept being no need to get $10,000.00 to $35,000 operations when you can simply change diet to plant based and get better healthy results. Drugs, operations, doctor visits, and sickness are all the products being placed based on the typical American diet. This is actually a free knowledge. This is the real deal. It has changed my life, president Clintons life, and many more people posting here. Dr. Esselstyn is an amazing person to help people heal themselves and prevent disease. Dr. Esselstyn could make millions a year by being a surgeon, but instead he just provides information, often for free. He called me and consulted as well, and never charged me. When does that happen!

      May 3, 2013 at 20:57 | Report abuse |
    • Mark G

      Tommy, thanks for sharing your story. I have had the same success following Dr. Esselstyn Diet. It is a great concept and so simple. The plant based diet is actually delicious for me. I will never go back to the old ways. M.G.

      May 3, 2013 at 21:00 | Report abuse |
  8. Mike R

    Who Cares Michael V

    If it ends up saving even one persons life what's it matter?

    That alone is worth whatever it took to get it on this page.

    August 20, 2011 at 06:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. claudia Januchowski

    You know what they about people like "Mike V"...
    This world should have more people like Tommy Carruthers who is so passionate about helping others anyway he can.

    August 20, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alemci

      Just go on a 24 hr fast, drinking lots of water only, green tea too if you want. By that time, most of your cravgnis should be gone and you'll experience true hunger. Once it's over though, MAKE SURE to eat a healthy, light, wholesome breakfast, lunch, and dinner. DO NOT eat junk food or fattening food of any kind; that will just make your cravgnis for junk food worse.Good food options:whole grain bread/pasta/cereal (look for ones with high fiber content and lower calories)lowfat cheeses and soymilk or skim milk for proteinbaked/grilled meats instead of friedLOTS OF FRUITS AND VEGGIESThe higher fiber and lack of excessive sugar and fat will have you feeling a lot more satisfied and full. Eating this way will be a lot easier after a 24 hr fast because you actually feel true hunger after that time, and pretty much anything tastes good after 24 hrs of no food. It's a great way to train your tastebuds to like things that are good for you.

      November 16, 2012 at 00:52 | Report abuse |
  10. Brian Rogers

    Great story Tommy. My wife's family has a history of heart disease and anything to help her and myself not worry about that possibility in the future is worth trying. Good luck with everything and heres to a long happy life!

    August 20, 2011 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Haley

    You have been truly inspiring and changed your life right before our eyes! We are all so proud and happy for you, Tommy!!

    August 22, 2011 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jim C

    This diet has worked for me. My history includes three heart attacks, two angioplasties, triple bypass. My first heart attack was in 1984, and after that event, a friend gave me Nathan Pritikin's first book. It made great sense, but it took me a while to perfect the diet.

    Pritikin was a chemist and was the pioneer of this plant based no added fat diet. Others that followed him are Dean Ornish MD, John McDougall MD, and now Dr. Esselstyn, who I believe has the best credentials, is at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, and of course he has done his own research. It is amazing how well he stays in touch with so many patients. I am so very glad Dr. Esselstyn has become a champion of the plant based no added fat diet. He has done and will do much to spread the word and overcome the disblief of so many cardiologists who stll believe in surgery, pills, and radiation.

    Could I go back to breakfasts of fried eggs and bacon? Probably, but the slight decrease in eating pleasure from this diet is overwhelmingly compensated for by the joy of having stopped the disease and having control over my health. My bypass grafts are in their 21st year, and I am running 5k races at 71. It doesn't get better than that!

    August 23, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tommy Carruthers

      Jim C, I am nearly 10 months into strict compliance with this diet and have never felt better. Hearing your story of long term success is certainly reassuring that I am on th right track. Thanks!

      August 23, 2011 at 21:42 | Report abuse |
  13. Dr. Larry Deutsch

    I applaud Mr Carruthers. He has lost quite a bit of weight and has made important lifestyle changes that have improved his health. However, I am disappointed that CNN has chosen to post such a misleading article under the guise of "health".

    First, there is no "proof" in this piece that this so called "heart attack diet" works. Proof requires a study that has significant sample size and a control group. One person does not a study make.

    Second, Mr Carruthers complains that his doctors and cardiologists, told him that it was not "necessary or even realistic that I commit to the lifestyle changes recommend by the book." That is because many studies have shown that, for overweight patients, "extreme" diets work very poorly. Very few people are able to maintain a vegetarian diet for a few months, let alone the rest of their lives. This is illustrated by Mr Carruther's own behavior; despite his poor health it took him over 9 years to decide to lose weight.

    Finally, its is not remarkable that Mr Carruther's health has improved now that he has lost weight and eliminated animal fat from his diet. Those steps will help every obese person lose weight and regain their health. This, again has been proven many time over.

    What has not been proven is that a person needs to buy Dr. Esselstyn's book or follow his diet to regain their heart health. Eating fewer calories and more vegetables, especially leafy greens, and increasing exercise will work perfectly well for most people.

    I urge CNN to be more responsible in the future and refuse to present this "junk science" as news.

    Dr. Larry Deutsch, MD
    Family Physician and Hypnotherapist
    Author, Calorie Wars: Fat, Fact and Fiction

    August 24, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom Carruthers

      Dr. Deutsch
      Thanks for your reply. Sadly though, it seems clear to me that you must not have taken the time to read Dr. Esselstyn's book or others like Dr. Dean Ornish. I find their diet recommendations to be far from "extreme", and they are based in soild research and studies. As for me, I did follow "normal" recommendations for diet and exercise for those fighting heart disease, and I looked far more "normal" by most standards than obese. Unfortunately being "normal" was far from good enough to keep me out of the hospital. In fact, you are great example of a doctor who promotes that a healthy, plant-based diet is not realistic. I think that assumption is unfair and damaging to people like me. I believe that a doctor's role should be to make recommendations to pateients that give them the best chance to be healthy and let the patient decide what is realistic. It was this type of advice, not my will power or quality of life, that consumed nine years of my life to finally determine and implement a lifestyle change that has helped me feel as healthy and happy as I am today. I applaud CNN for their efforts to promote what sadly many doctors have not due to faulty assumptions about what most people are willing to do.

      August 26, 2011 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
    • Jean jorissen

      Sir Larry's,
      I understand your frustration because such à landslide in healthcare and foodindustry Will meet à lot of people advocating THE statusquo to preserve their lucratieve deseasebusiness .
      As ascientist I am more sceptici in colleges using hypnosis....

      June 1, 2012 at 22:13 | Report abuse |
  14. Elizabeth Angus

    Dr. Deutsch, if this article motivates one person to change their lifestyles and give it a go, what harm is done ? I know I need to eat better, exercise more, yadda, yadda, yadda, and I know it has to come from me but, if this gives me hope, so be it.
    i go to my doctor and he say "lose weight and come back in 4 months"....okay......but there is no support, no encouragement, just..."lose weight".....I'm trying, I'm trying.
    I go for my first heart cath on Monday and they suspect I have 100% blockage and have had a heart attack at some point.....

    August 24, 2011 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Judy N

    Dear Dr. Deutsch
    The fact that studies don't appear in this article doesn't mean that they don't exist. There are probably many people out there who consider hypnotherapy less than "scientific" but you apparently are not one of them. As a doctor you are in a position to help many people. Read the studies and pass on the information.

    August 25, 2011 at 06:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. rosemary

    I discovered Dr. Esselstyn on the blog, HappyHealthyLongLive.com, and am changing my lifetime of meat, potatoes, fine dining, etc., for beans and rice et al – gladly. not for weaght loss, but to stay off the statins my doctor is recommending and which I've tried in the past. I had the heart scan recommended in the video, last winter, and discovered unsuspected plaque deposits – that's evidence enough for me that there must be a better way to live and that I can do it. Am loving the fruits, veggies, grains and everything else. check out the blog for cooking and recipe ideas and excellent links to further information. It's working for me.

    August 30, 2011 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. George

    I have been limiting my fat intake to about 10 to 12% of my daily calories for nearly 2 years after I had a heart scan indicating a lot of artery plaque. While only parially compliant with Dr. Esselstyn's approach I reduced by total chloIesterol to less than 100 and my LDL to 50, lost 40 pounds and got my glucose levels to a normal range. I took great satisfaction thinking that these improvements would have a very great impact on my artery plaque. Instead my plaque numbers inccreased by 30% in my second heart scan.

    I would like to hear comments from anyone who has been fully compliant with the Esselstyn diet, about their heart scan numbers before starting and after being on the Esselstyn diet for an extended period.

    September 1, 2011 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kevan

      Dr. Esselstyn has said that in order to see the results he mentions it requires full compliance of the diet. He cited a study where some patients did partial following and did not have the same amazing results as the ones who fully complied and that some even died from heart complications later. There's not a whole lot of studies on this other than his and his colleagues work so it's hard to say if thats an anomaly or not. Either way, it's something to consider.

      April 4, 2012 at 12:00 | Report abuse |
    • rogjan73

      Google heart attack proof + youtube and Dr. Esselstyns one hour video lecture will come up with photos of arteries opened by his handiwork. And think of this anyone out there who doubts this. Would the worldreknowned Cleveland Clinic dare let a quack doctor work out of their building . Of course not. I worked at the Cooper Clinic for awhile and they were moving to this diet back when Nathan Pritiken came on the scene years ago.

      August 11, 2014 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
  18. Alistair in Qatar

    Folks, five days ago I saw the CNN interview with Bill Clinton. It was a revelation, everything the Doctors had been saying all these years suddenly made sense. I am a 52 year old, six foot tall male weighing about 118 Kg (= 260 Pounds) taking pills for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All the usual reasons – too much meat, too much cheese, too much beer, not enough exercise. So for the last five days I have strictly followed the "New Bill Clinton Diet" – no meat, no fish, no dairy, no fat, no oil – only vegetables, fruit, beans, rice, wholemeal bread and pasta, water and green tea. It is a 100% fat-free diet. It is not easy shopping for the right things to eat but I would be stupid to die early of a heart attack because I couldn't be bothered to do the right thing. If you are an at risk fatty like me then I urge you to change to a 100% fat-free diet too.

    September 2, 2011 at 06:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. John A

    57, overweight, over-stressed and was destined to die of a heart attack. I needed a radical change, not a slight modification.

    I am 13 days into the vegan plus (or should that be minus?) lifestyle of no animal products and no oils. The idea that I MIGHT cut my heart attack risk to or near zero makes it a no brainer. If I only reduce my risk by 10%, it is still a no brainer. Actually, trying again, for the 20th time to make slight adjustments was the real no-brainer, as in acting without a brain!

    The food is cheap, tastes great, is easy to prepare and I have had no problem staying with it on business trips.

    My only complaint is that this needs a name. How about the ZHAR diet (Zero Heart Attack Risk)?

    [The book cost less than my co-pay for one office visit, so please cut out the questions as to the proponents' motivations. Show me a study that proves that it is bad for me rather than requiring a study that proves the benefits.]

    September 2, 2011 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Rose V

    And yet in many schools such as mine they have put diet Mount. Dew and Diet Pepsi in for everyone to drink. I don't know about you but i thinks its wrong to put that out in a school. Its like telling the students its OK to drink this Diet Soda even though it can make you fat and cause you many health problems.

    September 3, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. David B

    Thank you, Tom Carruthers. I've been on the diet for three months so far and have every intention of continuing for only one reason I've not seen mentioned so far in this discussion – PAIN! So long as my heart will allow my legs to carry me as far and as fast for as long as they want without PAIN my diet is secondary. I'm also curious whether there are any reactions to George's post on 9/1.

    September 3, 2011 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • George

      I suspect there are few if any who are monitoring their results through the use of heart scans. My cardiologist does not bill medicare or insurance for heart scans. Instead I had to pay $149 for each of the two I have had, although I feel they were worth it. Have you had one?

      September 4, 2011 at 05:59 | Report abuse |
  22. David B

    No, I've never had a heart scan. My understanding is that it's used as a screening tool and I've already been diagnosed with coronary artery disease by an echocardiogram stress test.

    September 4, 2011 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Donna

    Just started the Esselstyn diet 5 days ago. I will be having a complete physical at the end of the month (when I turn 50). I'm anxious to see the bloodwork results after following the nutrition plan for 3 weeks. Haven't had any heart trouble yet but it runs in my family and I hope I break the trend.

    Good luck to all on the plan and thank you Dr Esselstyn for your honesty and candor!

    September 10, 2011 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. George

    I know Dr Esselstyn says no oil among no to several other food items. I wonder about fish oil and calcium. My cardiologist has recommended daily fish oil tablets and Dr Esselstyn has also recommended calcium supplements daily. I wonder whether either of these items contribute to calcium buildup in the heart arteries?

    September 13, 2011 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kevan

      I've seen Dr. Esselstyn recommend staying away from fish oil. and to use flaxseed insteal. He, himself, uses flaxmeal but he says even not to use flax oil. The fish oil he says the detractions outweigh the benefits especially due to the mercury. He also said it breaks down the endothelium cells as does all oil. I've read elsewhere that flax isn't as beneficial as fish oil so it's a point of contention that warrants independent study and judgment.

      April 4, 2012 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
  25. Kevin Cimring

    I suffered a heart attack at age 41 and have been on Dr Esselstyn's diet for about 3 months. I have had a marked decrease in LDL levels but unfortunately my HDL levels have also come down. Nonetheless, on the whole I am feeling good, have lost weight and believe the benefits of low HDL probably outweigh the benefits of lower HDL – but there is scant research on this topic. On this point I wonder if I should be taking fish oil to try boost the HDL or simply stay true to dr esselstyn's diet based on the low LDL levels.

    Another question – what exactly do you mean by a "heart scan"? Is this an angiogram?

    September 18, 2011 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • George

      I had the same experience with my HDL on the Esselstyn diet. Dr Esselstyn's book p 49 says low HDL is not worrisome if total chloresterol is less than 150. Nevertheless I have the same worry as you.

      Dr Ornish says to take fish oil and so does my cardiologist. See the first question/answer at http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/19/these-changes-will-make-you-live-longer-tweets-dean-ornish/ Dr Esselstyn says no oil.

      A heart scan is a xray scan of the heart which detects calcium in the arteries. It is not an angiogram. See number 1 at

      September 19, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse |
  26. Rick

    If you want a good diet, then 75% of your diet should be fruits and veggies, 10% Legumes and/or Grains and 5% meat or fish. Then you are left with a 10% of whatever you want. This means that if you eat 4 times per day, you get 28 meals per week and you can eat whatever you want on 3 of those meals (2.8). People with health issues do the opposite, they eat and drink whatever for 90% of the week and they diet on monday for 10%.

    Is just the way it is. The secret is to use common sense, not to eliminate everything from one side of the food chain. We need natural healthy fats and proteins to live, but we also need all the nutrients in plants to be healthy. It is hard to find true natural foods these days, and is sad. Also don't forget to move your body a be strong physically. It helps to keep yourself from getting injured.


    October 15, 2011 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Mike

    I am 60 years old and have been on the Esselstyne diet for over a year. I started after a carotid artery scan showed some blockage and my blood work was not good. I was in great shape and thought that I was eating healthily. I worked out regularly and my % of body fat was close to 7%. My Dr prescribed a statin. After doing some research I read Dr Esselstyne's book along with The China Study. It was a no brainer for me. I quit the statins after 1 week and began the diet. My cardiologist was skeptical but now my blood numbers are at the point where he told me that he would not recommend a statin for me. I have other friends who have adopted the diet and have lost weight, improved their blood and gotten off of statins.

    In addition to the heart benefits, the diet also lowers risk of cancer and and many other Western diseases.

    I not only don't have a problem sticking with the diet. I like it and feel great.


    November 6, 2011 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. ER

    It's entirely possible to follow this diet for many years. I've been following the Esselstyn diet for 5 years now, and don't have a second thought about ever going back to a standard American diet. I never had a heart attack, but I did have high blood pressure, constant reflux, and was sick a lot with sinus infections all the time. All those are a thing of the past now, along with over 40 lbs of excess weight. Kudos to Tommy for writing this article. I hope it helps others realize there is an alternative to a life of medications and surgery.

    November 16, 2011 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Kathy Nguyen

    So I believe that what is stated in this book is probably appropriate in getting on the right track to a healthy lifestyle and living longer. Before this book ever came out the information was out there (maybe not in a single book form) that eating right, limited portions, less processed foods, exercise, etc will keep us healthy. On Natural Standard, they have a whole database on information for health and wellness to get you on the right track. They have information on herbs and supplements that work and don't work. You really just have to know where to look. People diverge from doing the right things for their body all the time. Most people think that they can take a pill, not change their unhealthy lifestyle and expect to have the medications work. This is not the case for many people. I agree that this article is inspiring to all those suffering from cardiovascular disease and should be used as a cautionary tale to those suffering from chronic and often silent cardiovascular diseases.

    I say this all the time and to everyone I know: People are responsible for their decisions they make and should own up to it. If you want to continue to take your pills and have an unhealthy diet so be it. If you want to be healthy then you have to do what Tommy did. He decided no more hospital visits, took his life by the reins and became healthy through the right diet and exercise. Yes there are people that can crash diet and stick to it. Yes there are people that cannot crash diet and bounce back because they were too strict on themselves or didn't have enough self-discipline. Don't blame the pills, don't blame the industry, don't blame your doctors, blame yourself for not changing. And if you do make the change, more power to you. People will not change unless they want to. This concept applies to everything in life.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. lulubel

    I began a vegan diet five months ago. I encountered Dr Esselstyn when I was looking at the Adventist CHIP program. It is more liberal with fats found naturally in food, but they say you should have them in small amounts only. The research is exemplary, and Dr Esselstyn has all the proof he needs. His research is hundreds – ?thousands? – of men and women who no longer need to take handfuls of pills, who can do things they never thought possible because of their deteriorating health, and who have proven their cardilogists wrong. People THRIVE on this diet, people! And they enjoy it. I LOVE sitting down to a plate full of delicious fruits or crisp, fresh salads. And you can make lots of things that are similar to the awful western diet, only with healthy ingredients. I made a wholemeal lasagne today with tofu as the "cheese", and it was so delicious, I could eat the whole tray! Those of us who have tried the change love it. I have lost 12 kilos of weight so far, while eating everything I want, second helpings all the way. My blood pressure has dropped to the point where I take a quarter of a tablet when previously I was taking two whole tablets per day. I have had some "slips" – mostly when travelling or with family, but that's okay, as it's a rare event. I am happier than I have been in years, and I feel an inner energy that I haven't had since I was young. Esselstyn and the CHIP program have hugely improved my life and health, and I thank them heartily.
    My diagnosis is valve disease, pulmonary hypertension, severe diastolic dysfunction. Not curable with diet, but certainly manageable, and with low salt and fats I have no fluid retention any more. My asthma disappeared when I gave up dairy products and eggs.

    March 5, 2012 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KK

      Could you give an update on your condition? I was wondering if the Essylstyn diet is improving your pulmonary hypertension?

      March 5, 2015 at 16:20 | Report abuse |
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  35. gerr

    George, >>
    "A heart scan is a xray scan of the heart which detects calcium in the arteries. It is not an angiogram. See number 1 at

    Actually, I think you are talking about a calcium score. It's more than an xray scan. It's many, many xrays. The equivelant of ~30 chest xrays (i suspect even more) and is extremely bad imho for your long term health. Your doctors will not tell you this as it is so common. They also won't generally tell you is there is 2 relatively safe alternatives for measuring "hard" plaque. (difference between hard and soft plaque and why this test is less definitive for heart attack risk is a whole nother thread 😀 ) Those test are Cardio MRI and a EBT. http://voices.yahoo.com/ct-calcium-scoring-radiation-cancer-risk-ebct-vs-64-8511441.html?cat=70
    Also check out another book that is really a great very detailed read on heart disease. "Dare to Live" by Steve Parcell
    Btw, I too am on Dr. Esselstyn's diet (we shall see) after being diagnosed in the 90% plaque for my age group and I am a cardio athlete for almost 30 years. Statins made me sick....

    November 9, 2012 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Gilberto

    Great post! I stumbled upon this blog and I'm rllaey glad I did. Right now I'm working on a PhD in Nutrition and had the privilege of hearing both Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn speak this fall. It's amazing what a difference changing your diet can make! Everyone should read The China Study , rllaey eye-opening stuff.

    November 14, 2012 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rogjan73

      And they are both in their late 70s and run and bike daily while their friends aren't.

      August 11, 2014 at 14:25 | Report abuse |
  37. Rick

    Great post.
    Tommy – it's been about a year and a half since your post. How are things going for you?

    January 24, 2013 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom


      Sorry I'm just seeing this now, but the great news is that I couldn't be better! I actually had a catheterization last Spring which showed no new blockage and even better some of the blockage in areas to small to stent had shown evidence of reversal. Cash hung my lifestyle was such a small price to pay for the quality of life I enjoy today. Good luck to you!

      August 19, 2015 at 07:29 | Report abuse |
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  39. Sifter

    I congratulate all who have success on the Esselstyn diet. I would like to hear about others who choose Dr. Davis's diet, the Wheat Belly diet, where he doesn't have a problem with meats, fish and real cheese, but has a big issue with most grains, including wheat. Several cardiologists have noted that HALF of all heart attacks occur in people with NORMAL cholesterol levels, giving rise to the theory that inflammation, NOT cholesterol , causes the chain of events leading to arterial plaque, eruptions and blockages. Anyone?....

    April 20, 2013 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rogjan73

      His diet is more in the form of South Beach, Atkins, and Paleo. Sugar is the main culprit of inflamation. It is the scourge of civilization. High fructose corn syrup is included. If you want to see a wonderful discussin on this by Dr. Robert Lusig, MD Google, sugar: the Bitter Truth + youtube and watch his lecture. He is an endocrinologist at UC San Francisco. Also pick up the book, Pure, White, and Deadly by John Yudkin. It will tell you the truth of sugars devastating effects on us all. Also look up Weston Price. I believe his work more than anyone else's inspired the Paleo diets emergence. At the first of his lecture Dr. Lustig asks the question, what do the two famous diets which are diametrically opposite, yet both work have in common. Neither lets you eat sugar. Watch the video. It will open your eyes. Oh and I don't know Dr. Ludwig and have never gone to UCSF. Thanks.

      August 11, 2014 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
    • rogjan73

      Not if it's 150 or below. And No Sugar. Google Sugar: The Bitter Truth + youtube and watch this video about how sugar and inflamation cause heart attacks ( implied )

      August 11, 2014 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
  40. Isadora Penza

    Veganism is a small but growing movement. In many countries the number of vegan restaurants is increasing, and some of the top athletes in certain endurance sports – for instance, the Ironman triathlon and the ultramarathon – practise veganism, including raw veganism.:.";

    See you later

    July 9, 2013 at 05:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rogjan73

      Read Brenden Brazers book, Thrive. He's pure vegetarian and a marathoner and triathlete.

      August 11, 2014 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
  41. Peter B

    Watch the movie Forks over knives available on net flix. It discusses the China Study which reveals the correlations between diet and heart disease. Additional information on casein and how it promotes cancer and tumor growth when amounts exceed 5%.

    January 2, 2014 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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  46. rogjan73

    This is really good stuff. If you're a Colin Campball fan you'll already realize that medical doctors are trained to do certain things. They aren't aren't evil but sometimes misled. They also get very little training in nutrition if any at all. If they stray too far from the reservation on which they were raised it will become a hard row for them to hoe. Cancer and heart disease are each upwards of an eight billion dollar empire each. Doctors in Arizona and sometime California seem to be able to do more of their own thing as concerns cancer and heart disease but I believe as concerns heart disease Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is the real deal. If you want to see his one hour lecture with charts and evidence google Heart Attack Proof + youtube and watch the video. He was a world class athlete as was his son Rip Esselstyn who was a two time all American at the University of Texas at Austin as a swimmer. I worked at The Aerobics Center- Cooper Clinic for awhile and while ther years ago got to see this up close and personal with people reversing heart disease even long ago. I went on this diet and loved it. Give your body a chance to adjust to the food and you'll love it. I'd get Dr. Colin Campbell's China Study book too. He'll show you that you don't need as much protein as you think and that too much protein is not a good thing because our bodies don't like the nitrogen released by too much protein. It's reaction to it is to pull calcium from your bloodstream or bones to get rid of it. I also took the Plant Based Nutrition Program at Cornell University which was very informative as pertains to heart disease and cancer.

    August 11, 2014 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. rogjan73

    Also if you're going to do Paleo or Atkins Google vitamin K 2. It has little to do with regular vitamin K. If you read Weston Prices ancient book vitamin K hadn't yet been discovered. He refers to it as activator X . If I was on Paleo, South a Beach, or Atkins I'd be trading it. It's purpose is to put calcium in your body where it belongs and take it from places it doesn't belong , like your arteries. If you're into these diets you may also want to read Grain Brain and Cure Tooth Decay. These diets are very similar. Google Vitamin K 2 and places will pop up where you can buy it. 145 mcg. Is supposed to be a good daily allowance.

    August 11, 2014 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. advancedcardiodr

    Proper diet is one of the best medicines that makes patient health and fit. As we know cholesterol is also one of the reasons causing heart attack, so follow diet tips regularly.....

    December 1, 2014 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
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  50. Angela

    Tommy, how are you doing now and what kind of doctor do you go to that supports your lifestyle? I wonder this because my fiance has just undergone triple bypass and we're trying out Dr. Esselstyn's diet... The doctors are trying to place him on additional medicines for blood pressure, even though he does not have a blood pressure problem, just because "it has been proven to keep people out of the hospital". I find this absurd.

    July 22, 2015 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom


      Sorry I'm just seeing this now. It's a great question and a hard one to answer from experience. I have continued to receive advice from three doctors. Dr Esselstyn has been a life saver for me and inspired my lifesaving lifestyle changes. He is not officially my doctor but he is always available by phone for any questions or updates I have. I also see my primary care physician and cardiologist. The truth is I think I have been an example and learning experience for both of my "real doctors". The call me their model patient and have supported the reduction or elimination of my heart medications based on the results of my lifestyle changes. In fact I had a catheterization last Spring that confirmed no new blockages and some of the smaller blockages actually showed evidence of reversal. Good luck to you and your fiancé and I hope he finds the right doctor who will support and not undermine his desire to get healthy without relying entirely on medications.

      August 19, 2015 at 07:41 | Report abuse |
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