Yesterday (while I was wide awake, this time) I watched Dr. Sanjay Gupta‘s special, The Last Heart Attack, on CNN. I highly recommend that everyone try to find this when it airs again, On Demand, on the computer—somewhere! With a family history of heart disease, at 41 years old, Dr. Gupta went on a quest to delve into his own body with scans and tests and see if he could detect and hopefully prevent EVER having a heart attack. He undergoes blood tests, ultrasounds of his carotid artery and a cardiac scan (invented by the author of the South Beach Diet) and interviews doctors, cardiologists and patients of heart disease, including former President, Bill Clinton who underwent bypass surgery, and had stents put in a short time later. It was when he had the stent work that he decided he was never going to cure his heart disease unless he truly eliminated the plaque in his arteries. BINGO. This is the flaw of bypass surgery and or stents…they help with the cardiac arteries but here’s the thing–if you have plaque in your cardiac arteries, than you have plaque in all your arteries.
It was at this point that Clinton, who had already tweaked his diet earlier with the help of Dr. Dean Ornish, realized that “tweaking” was not enough and decided to try an entirely plant-based diet. In interviews with Dr. Esselystyn (China Study/Forks Over Knives) who heads the wellness program at the infamous Cleveland Clinic, he claims, without a shadow of a doubt, that a plant-based or vegan diet is THE way to reverse (not just halt) heart disease. His claim is that people on a plant-based diet can be assured that they will never have a heart attack. While I think that statement is a bit bold, the science does support his claim. In fact, in an interview with a woman who had complete blockage and denied emergency bypass surgery, we see not only how healthy and fit she feels now, but also images of once blocked arteries that have literally reopened.
Several interesting questions were raised during this one-hour show. Questions like how Bill Clinton got clean bills of health while in office, being seen by the top of the top physicians, and yet his arteries were blocked enough to cause a cardiac event just one year after leaving office, when we know build up takes years and years. This is one of the reasons the cardiac scan is such a great test, but isn’t often done. Instead we rely on blood cholesterol testing, which turns out to be a much better test for the people that make cholesterol medication than us. I learned that there are 2 types of LDL (bad –or lousy cholesterol) large and small particles. Turns out it’s the small particles that cause the blockage, but the large ones travel through our arteries, which is why some people with high cholesterol will never have a heart attack or stroke, while others are at higher risk. The type of particle CAN be determined through a blood test, though I never heard of this till I watched this show.
While I initially was interested in this special because I knew that Dr. Esselstyn and President Clinton would be on talking about diet, this was NOT the essence of the show. It was clearly about preventing a heart attack and diet was just one aspect. I learned a lot about heart disease and the graphics were both graphic and very interesting. Watching someone recover from open heart surgery was a tremendous reminder that this is something we should ALL want to avoid.
The Last Heart Attack. A great watch, highly informational and a great vision by Dr. Gupta. Once again, if you can find it in it’s repeat mode (I will post if I learn it is being shown again) I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Regardless of how you decide to move forward after watching it, I promise you will be wiser for the hour spent. If it peaks your interest at all, you will definitely want to read The China Study or order a copy of Forks Over Knives. They are not only anti-heart attack but SO MUCH MORE! We are NOT our genes and have so much more control over our destiny than we sometimes believe or take responsibility for.
And did I mention, by the way, that Clinton’s weight is the lowest it has been since his youth? This from a president who was often parodied because of his love of foods fast and unhealthy! He claims to love the food he eats now as much as the food he ate before. I can relate, when you like to eat, it’s ALL GOOD! In fact, it’s so much better when you eat without guilt or fear!
The Last Heart Attack. Wouldn’t THAT be nice?