How Not To Die by Michael Greger, M.D.

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, July 10, 2016

You will never understand the need for health until you have chronic health issues. I wrote a review of How Not To Die by Michael Greger, M.D, over at Book Riot. It got 4 shares. I had made the mistake of not targeting my audience. Book Riot readers are mostly young, so most of them don’t have health issues – yet.

I believe How Not To Die is an essential book for anyone who craves health, but your willingness to read it will be proportional to had bad you feel. It’s a shame we don’t eat healthy our whole life, rather than waiting until we see the shadow of the Grim Reaper to start. If you suffer poor health for a variety of reasons, you should read this book. To be specific, if you have:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pains due to inflammation
  • Mystery ailments and autoimmune diseases
  • Getting old and tired

Then this book is for you. You can get a feeling for why you should buy this book by visiting NutritionFacts.org and watching several of the videos. Dr. Greger is a medical journal reading monster. He analyzes all the data we hear about on the news, that’s always so contradictory and confusing, and then rephrases it so it makes sense. The book is a summary of all this knowledge, broken down into different health problems.

Since I have clogged arteries, and have already had one stent put in, I know what it’s like to hunger for health. I also have spinal stenosis, and know about chronic pain. And I’m overweight. I have learned to control my conditions and lose weight with diet and exercise. I don’t take daily pain pills or anti-inflammation drugs.

esselstyn5Years ago I discovered that physical therapy and exercise would controlled my back and leg pains, and my neuropathy. But I didn’t eat healthy and weighed 240 pounds. Just before I retired, I was having trouble breathing, with dwindling stamina. I had to have a stent put in. That’s when I read Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyne, Jr., M.D., and saw the documentary Forks Over Knives. Both prescribed a plant-based diet for improved health.  Even though I’ve been a vegetarian since the 1960s, my version of vegetarianism wasn’t healthy.

Because I felt bad, I was willing to give up my favorite foods, and go on the plant-based diet. I lost 30 pounds, and felt great. My LDL cholesterol went down to 91. Then I started cheating on the plant based diet. I gain several pounds, and began feeling bad again. My LDL went up. I’ve since become more strict with myself, started losing weight again, and felt better. I know the plant-based diet works because every time I cheat for a week, all my health indicators go negative.

The reason why How Not To Die is such an important book is because Dr. Greger explains the science behind eating a plant-based diet, and why eating what I love is bad. The plant-based diet is not fun. I don’t go hungry, but it’s hard to follow. The main drawback is learning how to cook. The next biggest obstacle is learning to eat different. Plus, I’m troubled because the plant-based diet seems counter to what we’ve been taught about nutrition. I eat little protein and even less fat. Dr. Greger shows overwhelming scientific evidence that following this diet is healthy. And that’s why his book is worth reading. Nutrition science is confusing, and overwhelming. His book and videos carefully shows how in study after study, science is learning that a plant-based diet is healthier, and can reverse the damage done by a lifetime of poor eating. All I can say is the book is convincing, because when I apply it, I feel the results.

The sad thing about all of this is I know how to help myself, but I keep fighting that knowledge. I want to eat foods that hurt me. I know they hurt me because of trial and error. I have more stamina, energy and sense of well-being when I’m on the diet. When I return to eating peanut butter, eggs, cheese and butter, I can feel my arteries clogging. Yet, I crave those foods in an insane way. For the most part I’ve already given up on candy, pop, desserts and other obvious junk foods. When I eat junk food I feel much worse almost immediately. When I give into my sweet tooth, my writing discipline disappears, and I start skipping exercise. I become a couch potato. But with cheese, peanut butter and eggs, its more subtle. I feel happier, but I start slowly gaining weight again, and eventually begin noticing shortness of breath. That’s when I jump back on the diet. But after a couple months, I’ll cheat again.

The title, How Not To Die, is very literal with this book. I doubt many will read it – unless they are suffering. If you are, you might want to give it a try.

JWH

8 thoughts on “How Not To Die by Michael Greger, M.D.”

  1. I have recently started struggling with mysterious hives/swelling and a quick experiment with diet alteration really helped me. I have not gotten any answers from the healthcare professionals I have consulted and they are not really great with providing recommendations for lifestyle improvements sadly. I will definitely read this book as I want to figure out a more holistic approach that following tips I googled from here and there. Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. That’s the thing about mystery ailments — you have to solve them for yourself. Over the years I’ve found many things relate to what I eat. Sometimes it helps to eat very basic for a while, and then add in foods one at a time to see how you react to them. Years ago I was having all kinds of weird symptoms, and saw all kinds of doctors. Eventually I figure out that it was aspartame. I thought I was being healthy drinking diet Cokes and avoiding sugar. Turns out I was wrong.

      1. That is great. I am hoping to learn something for myself in the process. I just wish I had taken steps to be better to myself without the push of medical issues but it seemed so difficult

      2. Some of us need to be hit in the head with a 2×4 to learn. I don’t know if anyone does what’s good for them just because they are told its true.

  2. Each to his own. Strongest remedy can be placebo but if it works, then hurrah. I don’t eat out much. We eat a balanced diet (heavy on vegs). I do like fried chicken etc. My mom is 92 and eats everything ( Sprite and ice cream are staples). Oh and we all die, some hungry, some full and some regardless of best efforts. I say eat and be merry. It’s your genes.

    1. Some people can eat anything, and nothing bothers them. I’ve inherited my father’s heart problems and my mother’s back problems. I know people that eat anything they want, never exercise and are doing great. I’ve also known people that smoked into their nineties and didn’t die of lung problems. My father died at 49 after surviving two heart attacks and a stroke. He was a meat, potato, Seagram 7, Camels kind of guy. His father also died young of bad living. If I didn’t eat the way I do, I’d be collecting more stents.

  3. I’m curious. You said peanut butter was bad but did not say peanuts. As a minor improvement in my eating I could give up peanut butter in favour of peanuts. Are peanuts okay?

    1. Peanuts are okay. And peanut butter might be okay if you have naturally low cholesterol. If you have a lot of heart issues, you avoid different foods. For example, if you have really bad heart you even avoid things like avocados. The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease book is a much stricter version of the plant-based diet than just Forks Over Knives diet. There are several plant-based diet books, all authored by doctors, and they vary. All are based on The China Study, which showed that the less animal products a population ate, the less likely they were to get heart disease, and diabetes. Watch Forks Over Knives. It was on streaming Netflix.

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