Book Review: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Caldwell B. Esselstyn MD
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, published in 2007 by Caldwell Esselstyn Jr, M.D., shows all of us how to prevent and reverse heart disease with a plant based diet, some twenty years after he began his landmark research. Esselstyn’s name became most well known when he was chosen as one of the cardiologists to treat former President Bill Clinton’s heart disease with a plant based cure. In fact, the evidence that diet is the cause AND the cure for heart disease and other Western lifestyle diseases like diabetes, stroke and common cancers is growing. So much so that the medical establishment, so closely tied to the pharmaceutical industry, is having to take note.
During his tenure as a heart surgeon at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, ranked as one of the top two cardiology hospitals in the US for 24 consecutive years, Dr. Esselstyn developed a program in 1985 with 24 patients who had run out of surgical and drug treatment options. He states “ Most demoralizing…was the recognition that so much that had been done to save them – repeated open heart surgery, angioplasties aplenty, stents and a host of medications – seemed no longer to have any useful effect…The fact is that some were walking dead men. It was, no doubt, that because they had completely run out of options that they agreed to the demanding conditions I set for entry into the trial cure that I had come to believe in.” As a result of the success
Some twenty plus years later when this book was published, Dr. Esselstyn reported that these patients remained symptom free. The most memorable sections of the book are the patients’ own accounts of their recovery, other health benefits they enjoyed, and their quality of life. As you might imagine, the food program for these patients with advanced heart disease was very strict – absolutely no meat or animal products of any kind, no dairy, no oils added to their food, no refined grains including white rice and enriched flour products, or nuts because of their high fat content. They were encouraged to eat all and any fruits, vegetables, beans, peas lentils etc., whole grain and plant based milks. And alcohol was allowed in moderation. The book includes over 150 tasty recipes to make the change enjoyable.
As a result of his patients' success and the results of other nutrition based heart studies, Dr. Esselstyn changed the focus of his cardiology practice to food as prevention and cure. The good news for all of us is that scientific and medical pioneers like Dr. Esselstyn have shown us how resilient our bodies are, even after decades of eating in ways that destroy our health over time. This book demonstrates that even people who are very sick with advanced heart disease can recover by changing what and how they eat. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to stay heart healthy, avoid diabetes and other lifestyle diseases. It’s never too late to start, and the answer is as close as our kitchens!