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

Diet or Die!

By James Wallace Harris, Monday, May 9, 2016

It’s one thing to choose to diet, it’s another thing to have to diet. I’ve become trapped into eating healthy because of my heart. If I go off my diet, I can feel the symptoms of my arteries clogging, and that isn’t nice. It seems like everyone I know can just chow down on anything they want, and ignore any possible consequences. I resent that. Some of my friends are visibly fat, but others aren’t. Most of my friends take statins or blood pressure medicines, or both. My wife has great cholesterol numbers because of her statin, and she eats what she wants. I have to take a statin and eat vegan just to keep my numbers in line.

They say the first sign of heart disease for many people is the heart attack that kills them. My first signs a few years ago were decreasing vitality, lack of stamina, trouble breathing and tightness in my chest. I was “fixed” by doctors putting a little spring in my widow maker artery called a stent. The trouble with atherosclerosis is it builds up everywhere in your arteries. Unless I change my habits, I’m only waiting for the next clog.

How Not To Die - Michael Greger

I’ve been experimenting with a plant based diet, something former President Clinton did after his stent was put in. He claims his research revealed that 82% of people who follow a plant based diet after a heart problem heal themselves. I’ve been trying to follow that diet for the last couple of years. When I stick to it, my cholesterol numbers go down. When I don’t, they go up. I keep trying to find ways to cheat with some of my favorite foods (peanut butter, sweets or cheese), but when I do, my LDL goes up again. If I cheat long enough, I can feel some of my old symptoms returning.

The book I try to follow, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. M.D., is very strict. When I follow Esselstyn’s diet I feel good, and I lose weight. I can eat as much as I want off the approved foods, but no fun foods. After a year of trying to find ways to tweak his diet in my favor, and four quarterly blood tests, I know I can’t. I’m trapped in this diet. I’ve found a new book, How Not To Die by Michael Greger, M.D. that confirms the claims of a plant based diet with numerous scientific reports. Greger runs a website, nutritionfacts.org, that regularly explains the research in medical journals with short easy-to-understand videos.

My dad died at 49, on his third heart attack. He survived two attacks and a stroke, but was miserable for seven years. He never ate healthy, never stopped smoking, and always ate what he wanted. Evidently, by not smoking and being a vegetarian since the 1960s, has let me beat his record and live to 64. I was always a sweet-tooth vegetarian. Now I’m discovering that I have to jettison the junk food to live longer.

Advocates claim following a plant based diet will reverse heart disease. I hope that’s true. If I’m going to die anyway, I’d rather go out eating Ben & Jerry’s. Right now I don’t have a choice. If I don’t eat healthy I feel my heart clogging up, and that feels pretty much like having a scary guy point a gun at my head and say, “Eat that and die.”

Bummer.

JWH

My LDL Drop to 92 on a Plant Based Diet

By James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Back in May when visiting my doctor for my quarterly cholesterol checkup and she was writing out another prescription to fight my cholesterol, I asked her if there wasn’t a way to lower cholesterol without drugs. She told me to lose weight. She’s told me that for years and I never have. But I was sick of trying new drugs. It’s taken me years to learn I can only handle 10mg of a statin, but no more, without getting side-effects.

I drove home seriously thinking about how to fight cholesterol. I got on Amazon and ordered the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., and I also discovered that night on Netflix, Forks Over Knives, a documentary that featured Dr. Esselstyn.

Forks_Over_Knives

I followed this plant based diet for three months and it worked. My August check-up showed I had dropped from 232 pounds to 211. My overall cholesterol went from 187 to 152, my LDL from 130 to 92, but sadly my good cholesterol dropped from 40 to 38.

The plant base diet is hard, but not that hard. No animal products of any kind, and no oils, not even olive oil, which everyone believes is good for your heart. I did cheat a little bit though. I ate peanut butter. I found if I could have one peanut butter sandwich a day I didn’t crave all my other favorite foods. I eat healthy cereal and almond milk for breakfast, and then a lot of salads, veggies, fruits, soups, and especially various rice and bean dishes. The worst thing about the diet was the gas, but over time my gut got better at processing so much roughage.

Now that I know this diet works I’m going to stick to it. Getting below 100 with my LDL amazed my doctor. She was so happy for me, and I don’t want to let her down. This is the first time in decades I’ve been below 230 pounds. I began 2015 at 242, and struggled for five months to lose 10 pounds. Then went on the plant based diet and lost 20 more in three months. The speed of losing weight has tapered off, but I’m going to struggle to lose more.

widowmaker

Another documentary, The Widowmaker, which I recently found on Netflix, also inspires me to keep on the plant based diet. That show claims heart disease is preventable. Forks Over Knives claims a plant based diet is the key to stopping heart disease. I guess I’m one statistic proving it works.

JWH