Health Matters: An Evening With Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.

Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. University of Central Florida October 20, 2011

Like many of you, I have a thirst for knowledge especially when it comes to making our world a better place for all of us. I try to keep up with a variety of pertinent issues that affect all of us. I believe that life is full of endless possibilities that could change our world for the better. So, why not open our minds to explore new ideas that could make life better for all of us? Moreover, why not empower ourselves with the knowledge that could make life better not only for us, but also for the entire planet?

It goes without saying that the topic of “health” hasn’t always been a hot topic. However, that seems to be changing lately. People are becoming much more aware of the need to eat healthier foods, exercise and reduce stress levels. Unfortunately, often times it takes a “wake-up call” to get people to change their lifestyle. For most people, this occurs later in life when things have already spiraled out of control.

And it also goes without saying that most people do not want anyone telling them what to eat “or” how to live. Of course that all changes when someone suffers a heart attack or stroke, and they are lucky enough to survive it. Sometimes it’s experiencing the loss of a loved one that gets us to reconsider our lifestyle choices. Moreover, it doesn’t always take something as severe as a heart attack, stroke, or the loss of a loved one to get people to make healthier choices. Often times high cholesterol levels will get people to embrace a healthier lifestyle. For others, it’s ethical reasons that motivate their choices. For some, it’s a combination of both ethical and health reasons. Nonetheless, there are all sorts of reasons why people choose to live their particular lifestyle. That being said, those lifestyle choices could have positive “or” negative consequences dependent upon the particular choices that individual makes.

As a seeker of knowledge, I was elated when I heard that internationally renowned physician and former surgeon Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., of the prestigious Cleveland Clinic  was coming to speak at my alma mater the University of Central Florida  located in Orlando. Specifically, Dr. Esselstyn is the “who’s who” of medical doctors. He also happens to be an Olympic gold medal winner of the 1956 US rowing team. He was also awarded the Bronze Star for his work as a surgeon in the Vietnam War. In addition, Dr. Esselstyn is among one of the doctors that former US President Bill Clinton credits for his recent decision to change to a plant-based diet.

Dr. Esselstyn believes that a vegan diet “without oils” can prevent and reverse heart disease. He documents this in his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. And during his presentation, he brought all sorts of slides to show it. I must admit that the results of his studies were amazing to me. I happen to be vegan myself (with oils), so it’s always interesting to see the outcome of a vegan diet albeit without oils. By the way, for those unfamiliar, vegans do not consume meat, dairy, eggs, and all other animal-derived ingredients. On the other hand, vegetarians also do not eat meat but may consume dairy, eggs, and other animal-derived ingredients.

Interestingly enough, with the exception of UCF medical students, my husband and me were some of the youngest people there among the attendees. Sadly, many of the people who attended the event had serious health problems, and even traveled from afar via airplane to attend the event. Yet, I kept thinking to myself, shouldn’t others without heart disease be here too? After all, why not embrace prevention? Just to point out, Dr. Esselstyn mentioned during his presentation that heart disease starts very early in life. It doesn’t wait till we all become senior citizens to begin!

After Dr. Esselstyn’s presentation, he took questions from the audience. There were lots of success stories. Many people saw significant results on his oil-free vegan diet. They had significantly lowered their cholesterol levels, lowered their blood pressure and lost weight.

After the question and answer period, Dr. Esselstyn stayed long after to talk with people. It was very obvious to me that Dr. Esselstyn truly cared about the well-being of those who attended the free event. As a matter of fact, I was so impressed with him that I wanted to share the event with everyone. Plus, I even bought the critically acclaimed documentary movie FORKS OVER KNIVES, which Dr. Esselstyn costars. I just added it to The List on my blog. It’s a must see for anyone that wants to live a healthier lifestyle. And it goes without saying that a plant-based diet is kind to animals and our planet. Nonetheless, it was truly a fascinating and inspiring evening filled with very important information that could save lives. Needless to say, I was honored to meet Dr. Esselstyn. He may be a renowned physician and former surgeon, but more importantly, he is a human being with a big heart for helping others. Just to note, there was nothing for sale at this free event (not his book or the movie). Clearly, Dr. Esselstyn’s only focus was on saving lives. That being said, there were lots of people in attendance (as in me) that would have loved to buy his book at the event! At any rate, Dr. Esselstyn graciously signed books for those who brought them, and posed for some pictures.

By the way, I have reduced my oils since attending the event. I will always be a lifelong vegan. I must admit I became vegan for ethical reasons (i.e., kindness to animals), but it sure is wonderful to know that it’s amazingly healthy being vegan!

So, have you ever considered a plant-based diet? Why or why not?

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About wordswithpurpose

Compassion motivates and inspires me. Whether it’s compassion for animals, the environment, or people–I embrace it. I try to live a compassionate life each and everyday. It gives me purpose.
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21 Responses to Health Matters: An Evening With Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.

  1. john tugano says:

    I always love to eat veggies since its kind of food readily available in our yard…I Agree with you that we only take serious heed on our health when we already encounter some serious problems on our body system its just by that time that we force to change our lifestyle..thanks for this post of yours its a great reminder to take good care of our health.,Be safe,eat right and live a well balanced life my friend.

    • That is so cool that you have your very own veggie garden! It sure beats going to the grocery store on a routine basis. I do grow tomatoes every so often (very delicious). I think that you have just inspired me to grow more of my own veggies. Anyway, thanks so much for your kind words my friend. I hope that you stay healthy and safe too! :)

  2. jakesprinter says:

    Thanks for this great story i begin to be health conscious almost 3 years i stop drinking and now about 3 weeks i throw away my cigarette now i can breath much better and better :)

    • I think that is so wonderful Jake! I wish you continued success. I bet your family and friends are just so proud of you. Thanks so much for sharing your story and kind words. Stay healthy and happy! :)

  3. A great article, yes, and I do agree with John. I just don’t know enough about how to sustain myself on a vegetarian diet and I’m just not into recipe books and cooking and so on. I only eat meat a few days a week, though serve it up to my son daily. If I don’t eat meat, I start getting rundown. I know you’ll tell me to eat legumes and nuts, but nuts are so fatty I can’t handle many. I do like tofu though. A great article with consciousness.

    • Thanks for dropping by again! I appreciate your generously kind comment. As for meat, I was raised on a meat and potatoes diet. As I became an adult, I became more aware of where my food came from (i.e., factory farms, etc.). As I further educated myself about what I was eating, I made the choice to go vegetarian. I recently transitioned into a vegan diet. Like most of us, I had long believed that “meat” was essential for obtaining protein. After all, much of society still embraces that belief today. Yet, that just isn’t the case. As for protein, there are tons of ways to get protein from a vegetarian “or” vegan diet. And it need not be by eating nuts! As a matter of fact, nuts are high in saturated fat. Fatty indeed! I myself occasionally eat them but not often. In particular, Dr. Esselstyn doesn’t recommend eating nuts on his vegan diet due to the saturated fats. Nonetheless, there is plenty of protein found in vegetables and whole grains. One of my favorite whole grains that packs a powerful protein punch is quinoa. It provides all nine essential amino acids, which make it a complete protein. Also, it is high in iron. Plus, it is so easy to cook. It merely takes 10-15 minutes on the stovetop and your done. I like easy too because I’m definitely no chef!! At any rate, there are all sorts of vegetables that are packed with protein (i.e., asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, etc.). In addition, I like lentils and beans. They are both yet another excellent source of protein. They are also low in fat and high in fiber. The important thing to remember for “vegans” in particular (since we don’t consume dairy/cheese) is to make sure we get enough B12. I get it in fortified cereals, soymilk, almond milk, etc.

      I hope I didn’t bore you with my lengthy reply! I must admit that I am a bit passionate about this! I do hope you get a chance to check out the movie Forks Over Knives. There is so much more information in it that is very useful. It’s not boring at all. I bought it on Amazon, and instantly watched it on my computer. It’s also available to rent. In addition, I have some other recommendations on “The List” on my blog. Thanks again for your kind words. I am looking forward to reading more of your blog too. Best wishes! :)

  4. Sony Fugaban says:

    Countless times, Donna. However the plan is stil a plan. So far, what I can only brag from this struggle are (1) the FACT that I had given up pork three years ago since I rented a place and (2) 70% of our meals is made up of vegetables. Beef is something I can’t give up yet but that’s something occasional already. I will try hard to give that up too. Pork was totally easy to remove it in my system but beef is certainly no duck soup for the same. Fish is what I love to devour now. Baby steps.

    I am glad that you pointed out the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian. (I am just a fledgling of the latter at this point.) Honestly, I thought the two are just the same. Thanks for the enlightenment not only on that but also to other important things you wrote here (e.g. that heart problems start early).

    As for my reason on why I decided to live healthy lifestyle, I did right when I learned the value of it in high school subsequent to learning that our family has a history of heart problems. So my story was like a road less travelled by. I started my healthy habits way earlier than expected.

    I must agree with your emphasis on telling the people that one should not wait for the death of a loved one to notice the wake-up call. That I think still is the trend so kudos to you on that because the world is in dire need of those words at this moment.

    I love this post, Donna! There’s a lot of meat in it I must say.

    • This is such a very thoughtful comment Sony. I agree with you on “baby steps.” I am not too much of a “cold turkey” kind of person myself! My decision to become vegan was an evolving process that didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual process where as one step led to another. I educated myself (and still do) on as much information as possible. Nonetheless, it’s good to hear that you are choosing to live a healthy lifestyle. Let’s face it; there are not too many mountain climbers out there! So, kudos to you for being such a fitness buff! I’m sure your family appreciates your commitment to fitness. I must say that there is a lot of “food for thought” in your comment. As always, I appreciate your kind words my friend. :)

  5. Knowledge is power and such power has the potential to create a better world, a healthier world for that matter. Your passion for things that are essential for a better life is inspiring. We all need a wake up call that we need a healthy life style and choices if we want to live longer. Diet, exercise, limiting stress, feeling happy and optimistic are vital tools for a healthier, quality and longer life. It’s not easy but perhaps one step is all it takes today and a commitment to change. Wonderful post. Have a blessed weekend my friend.

    • Very nicely said IT! I’m sure that you see your fair share of unhealthy people with your work at the hospital. It must be so sad to see the families that suffer as a result of a loss of a loved one. So, if anyone understands the importance of staying healthy—it’s you! Anyway, thanks so much for your kind and inspiring words. It’s always a joy to read your comments. Hopefully, our healthy, kind choices will have some positive influence on the next generation. I hope that you and your family stay healthy and happy. :)

  6. addielicious says:

    I’m a meat-lover and I think I will always be. I love animals (I’m a dog parent) and I say no to animal cruelty but eating meat with oils and without has always been my lifestyle since young. On the other hand, I watch what I eat. I try to eat more vegetables, especially the green ones, as much as I can. This post has only made me become more interested in them and also Dr. Esselstyn. So, many thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! It’s great to hear from other “pet parents.” Also, it’s great to hear that my post has made you interested in eating more veggies! The main goal of this post is about raising awareness. That’s always the first step towards positive change. As for Dr. Esselstyn, I hope that you get a chance to drop by his website (the link is in my post). It’s filled with loads of information that is definitely worth checking out. By the way, I was raised on meat too, and never thought I would end up being vegan. I didn’t even know what a “vegan” was! I guess life has a way of surprising us sometimes. Nonetheless, I appreciate your openness to embracing healthy, kind choices. So, many thanks to you for your inspiring comment. :)

  7. I’m right there with you on becoming a vegan, for health and for the sake of compassion for animals, who suffer such horrors on those cruel factory farms. How exciting to meet Dr. Esselstyn! – I’ve been reading about him often lately. We’re doing pretty well on our vegan diet so far. I’ve always disliked cooking, mainly because I felt very uncomfortable handling dead flesh, but now I’m enjoying it a lot, especially knowing that now when I cook I may even be saving my husband’s life, as he has severe heart disease. I enjoyed your well-written post, and hope to see the movie, “Forks & Knives,” soon.

    • Thanks for your kind and compassionate comment! It’s good to hear that the vegan diet is going well for both of you. Also, I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s heart disease. I hope that things will improve for him. My thoughts and prayers are with both of you.

      As for Dr. Esselstyn, I was excited to meet him. As mentioned in my post, I was amazed at the results during Dr. Esselstyn’s presentation. During his slide show, he showed an image of a person’s badly diseased artery before going on Dr. Esselstyn’s oil-free vegan diet. After he showed the diseased artery, he showed another image of the same person who had changed his diet to the oil-free vegan diet. I must say that the results were stunning to me. I’m no expert, but it was clear to me that there was significant improvement in the second image. The diseased artery had been “reversed.”

      By the way, both of my parents passed away from heart disease. Unfortunately, this was a very early life experience for me. So, I’ve had to live my life without my parents. It’s difficult to talk about, so let’s just say that I know firsthand what heart disease can do.

      I do hope that you get a chance to check out the movie “Forks Over Knives.” I think that you and your hubby will both find it helpful. It’s actually very inspiring! It gives real hope to those who already have heart disease, and for those who want to prevent it.

  8. This is a great post, Donna, I didn’t know about Dr. Esselstyn’s research on vegan diets. I’m a vegetarian for the most part, and admire how you (and others) are living according to your ethics – and quite possibly improving your health at the same time.

    • I appreciate your kind words Cait. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. Also, it’s really nice to hear that you are mostly vegetarian! By the way, it always brings me great joy to see your lovely nature photos. :)

  9. Not too long ago the word “vegetarian” evokes a strong negative connotation. But not anymore. “Plant-based” diet is becoming mainstream, and even “vegan” is becoming more accepted. Maybe because of all the research supporting it, and also people are becoming more enlightened. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I do think that a plant-based diet is becoming much more of a way of life for many people. It’s not just a fad or trendy thing to do. I think that more people are seeing the benefits of a plant-based diet, and they are embracing this healthy, kind lifestyle. Anyway, I appreciate you dropping by! :)

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