Fitness Challenge Day 64: A Chat with Dr. Esselstyn

Dr. Esselstyn’s Best Selling book

Yesterday I voiced my dilemma concerning my blood pressure meds and my frustration with the pain.  In my efforts to find a solution, I made my way to the website of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a world renown specialist in the prevention of heart disease and a New York Times Best Selling author of the book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease,” a major work on how a totally whole food plant-based diet can not only reverse heart disease (including hypertension and cholesterol) but can ultimately prevent it.  In fact, former U.S. President Bill Clinton used this book as his guide to turn vegan. (See the video clip below)




Dr. Esselstyn is in the upper echelon of a group of doctors that promote healthy lifestyles through eating whole foods plant-based diets with no meat, dairy, eggs, etc. Others in include Dr. T. Colin Campbell (author of The China Study), Dr. John McDougall (author of many books on plant-based diets and director of a number of programs), Dr. Dean Ornish (president and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute) and Dr. Neal Barnard (author, clinical researcher, and founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine).  All of these doctors were featured in the groundbreaking documentary “Forks over Knives” and most have also been referred to in the upcoming documentary “PlantPure Nation” (which I reviewed in an earlier post).

Dr. Esselstyn describes how he made his study work in this video

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

While reviewing Dr. Esselstyn’s site, I noticed that I could email him with questions. There was a note on there that said “Due to the volume of emails, please limit email concerns to cardiovascular disease,” so I figured my issue fit within the confines of this, but also assumed that I may or may not get a response.  But, due to my concerns, I also wanted to at least try.

Well, about an hour after I sent my very detailed email (with lab results, my doctor’s comments, the issues I was dealing with, etc.), I received a phone call.  And it was from Dr. Esselstyn!  I was shocked and grateful at the same time.  For him to call rather than respond via email was an amazing thing.  He spent about 20 minutes on the phone with me.  He stated that we were on the right track, but, in many respects I was “like a puppy lost in tall grass.”  He had reviewed my email and discouraged the use of the 100% Maple Syrup, avocados and nuts.  He also said no oil (we don’t use much, but we have had items with oil in them and have eaten at restaurants that have oil in their cooking.)  He advised me on a number of other things as well.  He was both informative and friendly, but was also matter of fact about things.

As Julianne and I looked at the book yesterday we noted something that seems to show his genuine concern.  This is from Page 20 of his book:

The most frequent objection I had heard to my ideas about nutrition and it’s the same objection I get to this very day, was that patients would never comply with such major changes in their diet.  So, I was determined to give them all the support I possibly could.  Years before, I’d heard the pioneering physician J. Englebert Dunphy quoted as saying that cancer patients are not afraid of suffering or dying, but are afraid of being abandoned. That became the mantra with my study group: I would never allow them to feel abandoned.

And even though he doesn’t even know me, he called and did not abandon my concerns, but rather put me on a corrected path.

The Cookbook

Needless to say, I was revitalized and energized by the conversation.  I did not ask whether I should stop taking the BP meds or not, and probably shouldn’t have anyway (and he did not advise me either). But, based on the conversation, I personally determined to drop the medicine, at least through the Great American Fitness Challenge 5K event so I can eliminate the knee pains and get back to walking.  I am hopeful that as Julianne and I really focus on the recipes in his book and associated cookbook, that we will get even better.  The recipes will be our guidelines for now.  So, no more maple syrup in our oatmeal, though fresh fruit is fine!

Last night we tried our first PRHD Recipe as Julianne made Caribbean Black Beans with Mango Salsa over Brown Rice.  Of course, I assisted with some chopping, can opening and advising on the topping it off with some tasty Sriracha.  We had fresh corn tortillas from the Super Mercado Aguascalientes and made some great soft tacos with them and the mixture.  Honestly, it was a satisfyingly delicious dinner, though the preparation time was nearly an hour.  But, we also had leftovers for lunch!!

Caribbean Black Beans with Mango Salsa over Brown Rice (and some soft corn tortillas to make tacos with)

So, I am getting back on track “mentally” after a challenging week.  I know it will be difficult…the good things always are.

Crickett Woods - June 3, 2015 - 17:09

You can do it Dave!!!

KAri - June 3, 2015 - 17:12

Good for you for taking charge there, Dave! 🙂

Jane Birch - June 3, 2015 - 21:34

So exciting!!! Dr. Esselstyn is my hero! I’m so amazed and happy that he called you. What a blessing. 🙂

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