Got Heart Disease or Diabetes? You May Want to Find a New Doctor!
I had a love affair with food most of my entire life and I was absolutely addicted to sugar, processed foods and animal products which led me from being overweight to suffering from obesity, diabetes, arthritis and severe heart disease by age 58. For most of my life, I was at least 100 lbs overweight; yet my body was starving nutritionally and I was clueless when it came to nutrition. Most people have no idea that our food choices are the cause of most of the health issues in the Western World.
In 2007, I was diagnosed with type II diabetes and my blood sugar was an incredible 441. I started experiencing shortness of breath and angina pain in my jaw and left arm. As a result, I had 5 coronary artery bypasses in 2008; two arteries were 100% occluded, two were 90% and one was 80%. They never informed me that my disease was progressive and I thought they “fixed” me. Upon discharge from the hospital, I was taking 13 pills and 2 shots a day, they told me to eat the Mediterranean diet, to limit my carbohydrates and to avoid potatoes, rice, bread and pasta. My diabetes was never really controlled the whole time because I never understood my sugar addiction until I found out that I was caught in what is known as The Pleasure Trap. In 2011, I discovered Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes. It worked beautifully for 18 months until I had company for Christmas and started eating the way I did for most of my life, which led me down a very slippery slope yet again. Needless to say, I fell off the wagon; I was addicted to sugar and processed foods, but I still didn’t understand, I thought I was just weak!
In February 2014, after experiencing angina daily since my heart surgery, I was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic for an angiogram to evaluate the status of my coronary artery bypasses. As a result, they had to insert seven stents into my arteries; and one week later upon emergency readmission, they inserted my eighth stent into an artery which was 90% occluded. Upon release from the hospital, they told me that I had severe heart disease and all my arteries were at least 50 percent blocked …even my bypasses; and they warned me that I would be back in the hospital within 6 months with yet another cardiac event. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and depressed, I cried for days! Shortly thereafter, I started having daily angina again, so I called my cardiologist and she told me that she could prescribe a nitroglycerin patch to ease my pain. I knew right then that they could not “fix” me! They also did a blood test for a genetic component LP(a) which is associated with heart disease. I did test somewhat positive for LP(a), so now we could blame my condition on my genetics, instead of taking any responsibility for my health situation such as my destructive eating habits. We rely too much on another pill or procedure to save us from what we have created, right at the end of our forks, every day, over decades.
In the middle of the night, depressed and crying out “Oh God, please help me, don’t let me die, please show me the way!!” I started researching, how to stop the progression of heart disease, on the internet. I found Dr. Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. I read it from cover to cover and committed to the whole food, plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle again over night! I called Dr. Esselstyn’s office and he returned my call assuring me that it was in fact what I was eating every day that completely destroyed my endothelial cells which led to my heart disease. He told me a WFPB lifestyle “trumps” genetics; and I had to believe in him, he gave me hope when I had none!
Within 2 weeks, my daily angina stopped completely! Next thing I knew I was not sleeping all afternoon as I had done for years. Then, I started walking daily and was totally committed to this lifestyle. I was on a mission to save my life! Within a short period of time, God (and a few whole food, plant-based doctors) had shown me the way! I began to come off of some of my medications starting with one diabetic pill, then a blood pressure pill and so on. My joints stopped aching…there goes another pill!
It has been almost 3 years and I have not fulfilled their dire forecast, that I would have another cardiac event within 6 months; in fact, I feel better than I have in over 20 years! Remember those 13 pills and 2 shots daily? No more shots, and I only take a small dose of a statin. (Why? Because the medical community will NOT take you off statin drugs when you have known heart disease, even though my total cholesterol is only 96). Gone are the days of angina, diabetes, arthritis, neuropathy in my feet, high blood pressure, 12 of the 13 daily medications, sugar cravings and weight issues. I have lost at least 100 lbs from what I was for most of my life. I have maintained my weight without struggling with it and I don’t weigh or measure any food, plus I eat till I am satisfied.
My life has completely transformed since I have adopted this Whole Food, Plant-Based lifestyle. Guess what? I eat complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, whole grain pasta and bread every day for the past 3 years, which proves the point that most doctors do not understand the power of nutrition. My doctors are completely amazed and told me that less than one percent of their patients would do what I’m doing, because it is so drastic. Well, I can show you drastic from the scars all over my body from my years of surgeries.
My cardiologist was so amazed with my progress that she notified the Cleveland Clinic media and my story was shown on local television. In March 2016, my story was shown on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt from New York City.
These days I speak at Dr. Esselstyn’s seminars for Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Center every month. My story has appeared on the Forks Over Knives Website, in the Diabetes Health Monitor Magazine and is incorporated in the plant based documentary Eating You Alive. My story was also taped by a BBC crew for a new documentary in England on plant-based nutrition. My story will also appear in Dr. Neal Barnard’s upcoming book The Cheese Trap, and his PBS special on diabetes scheduled to air February 2017.
Meet Paul Chatlin, Founder of Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group (PBNSG)
By: Char Nolan
Paul Chatlin, is a true friend and lifesaver to all. But, it could be that he is just giving back. His story of chronic, debilitating, chest pain, and the diagnosis of coronary artery disease will stop you in your tracks, just as it did to Paul.
Paul’s story really begins in May of 2013 when his chronic chest pain had reached its peak. Paul knew that he needed to find out the cause.
Here’s how the story goes, in Paul’s own words:
“I knew I was not well. I had to take a break to catch my breath every 10 steps or so. I felt the pressure on my chest every morning.
I started not wanting to wake up because I knew what was next. After a period of time the pain would stop and I would move on with my day, but now I had to make many, many more stops to rest.
I was more sad than depressed and scared to what was going to happen to me. What happened to my family growing up was now happening to me.”
After months and months of angina, chest pain grew in intensity, and duration. Paul knew that something needed to be done, but fear can often become a detour to reality. Paul’s instincts, and a caring wife, knew that he needed to get to the hospital. He was feeling “really bad, the kind of bad when you know something was NOT right.”
Here’s What Paul Did to Turn Things Around:
“With the help of my wife, Tracey, she spoke to her bosses who were able to get me an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic in just 3 weeks, (miracle #1).
I was then assigned to a cardiologist whose mentor just happened to be Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (how lucky was I?). With all of the cardiologists working at the Cleveland Clinic, I got assigned to the ONE doctor who understood Plant Based Nutrition and whose mentor was Dr. Esselstyn, ( miracle #2).
Then, just after my heart catheterization (when they finally found out what my problem was), my doctor called Dr. Esselstyn while I was in the recovery room (still on a gurney) and said “Hi Essy, this is Mazen, I think I have a patient for you.”
He handed me the phone, and I heard, “Hi Paul, this is Dr. Esselstyn. I think I can help you. So go on home and I will call you first thing in the morning,( miracle #3).
The next day at 8 a.m., Dr. Esselstyn called, and that’s when I started my deep love and respect for him.”
According to Paul, If you’ve ever had angina, “ it feels like very heavy pressure on your chest and you are very short of breath.”
Chatlin shares that a cardiac catheterization revealed he had 100% blocked artery, and two others were blocked at 65%. Other cardiac conditions also complicated this situation.
His cardiologist gave him two options, by-pass surgery, or try a plant-based diet. That’s when he met Dr. Esselstyn , and after that meeting, Paul decided to follow the pillars of Dr. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
Paul reported that after just three short weeks, his angina disappeared. Within one year, his cholesterol levels dropped from 309 to 122, and now at 57, he has lost 43 pounds and maintained the loss. He reports his energy is sky rocketing and he feels the picture of vitality and hope
Then Paul decided to do something unique and give back by reaching out to help others and created the “Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group(PBNSG).” Michigan-based, and only two years old, PBNSG has nearly 2000 members, and promotes plant-based nutrition through meetings, seminars, and more. As founder, he has his own posse of followers and they are all getting healthier, one forkful of kale at a time.
We asked Paul “five easy questions” and his responses are heartfelt, warm, and filled with hope.
CN : What was your “ah-ha” moment to embrace a whole-foods, plant-based, no-oil lifestyle?
PC: My Ah-ha moment was at the Cleveland Clinic, on that gurney, just after finding out (through a heart catheterization) that I had one artery 100% blocked and 2 others blocked at 65%. That’s when I found out about Dr. Esselstyn and his program at the Wellness Institute.
CN: What are three benefits of living a plant-based lifestyle?
PC: 1) More energy; 2) Better for both animals and our planet ; 3) Allowed me NOT to have by-pass surgery. You see, all the men in my family have had by-pass surgery when they were in their 50’s. Some of my uncles were never the same post-operatively. I watched my father cry in pain for 3-4 days from surgery.
CN: What would you tell a young Paul Chatlin about following Dr. Esselstyn’s diet?
PC: If I knew then what I know now, I would tell a young Paul Chatlin to start making the change slowly. I would have added more vegetables, beans, fruits and whole grains into my diet.
CN: Your vision for PBNSG is amazing, tell us how it started!
PC: When I started Plant Based Nutrition Support Group, I contacted 150 cardiologists at the three biggest hospitals in my area. I got one call back. Once again, I knew that something was wrong and decided not to continue and hope for changes with established physicians. I started giving my attention to future doctors.
My friend Karen Frazier (who was directing our Facebook activities) told me about a few Wayne State Medical Students that had a real interest in Plant-Based Nutrition. A few weeks later I met with medical students Amanda Martin and Brittany Vanhouten. I saw such a passion for health from them that together we decided to try to update and improve the nutritional curriculum at Wayne State University. To date we have been approved for 2 hours of plant-based nutrition education.
PBNSG offers CME credits to both doctors and nurses. We are working with fourteen 1st and 2nd year students from five universities, including, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Oakland University and Eastern Michigan.
CN: You’ve prepared a bountiful and delicious plant-based dinner, you invite four people to dinner, who are they?
PC: Always first is my mother, who passed away at a young age and suffered far too long.
2nd– My father- we were not that close- he was from the old-school of working two jobs to provide us with a better life. He was never around me growing up, so I would like to have a second chance with him.
3rd– Buddha- his teachings were spread peacefully
4th– Dr. Esselstyn-he saved my life and those lives of so many others today and in the future. The world should honor him, but it may take longer for him to receive his due.
If I could have a 5th (not whiskey) I would have Robin Williams because he could always make me laugh, which is something I wish I could do more of.
Just very recently, Dr. Esselstyn and Ann Crile Esselstyn traveled to Detroit to participate in a seminar at Wayne State University School of Medicine. Medical students were eager to learn about the pillars of a plant-based diet and its relevance to the reversal and prevention of heart disease.
Paul’s vision from his experience and recovery from coronary artery disease reminds me of the movie, Field of Dreams. Those famous words, “build it and they will come” underscore Paul’s insights to create a group that is changing people’s lives and helping all to reach better health outcomes.
But, most of all, we are in admiration of Paul and how he embraced a plant-based diet, not only change his own life, but also to improve the lives of others.
To learn more about Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group, head to http://www.pbnsg.org/
A Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life
by Char Nolan
Just recently, Tricia Slimbarski, had one of the biggest days of her life! She was the mother-of-the-bride at her daughter’s recent wedding. Having not seen many relatives since her plant-based transformation, lifelong family and friends hardly recognized her as she walked down the aisle.
Her story is amazing. Like many people, she grew up eating all the horrible foods from the Standard America Diet, and those foods left her obese, diabetic, exhausted, arthritic and with severe coronary artery disease. And she was the last to know.
See, in her own words, the journey that she has taken on the road to plant-based eating. Tricia’s journey can be yours, too. Let her be your inspiration.
In Her Own Words…
The turning point that led me to turn to plant based lifestyle was actually FEAR!! I thought I had very limited days left on this earth. When I was discharged from the Cleveland Clinic on 1 March 2014 after the insertion of eight (8) stents, the doctor told me that I would have another cardiac event within six months and instructed me to return to the Cleveland Clinic, since they knew me inside and out!
My physician also said I had severe coronary artery disease and that all my arteries were at least fifty-percent blocked. Days later, I had to call my cardiologist because of ongoing angina pain. She told me that I had “lots of damage” and she would put me on a nitroglycerin patch (on my arm) for the angina. That told me, “There was nothing they could do to stop the progression of this disease.” I cried for days, then I started researching “stopping the progression of coronary artery disease” and found Bill Clinton’s story and his plant-based approach after reading Dr. Esselstyn’s book, PREVENT AND REVERSE HEART DISEASE. That’s where I found Dr Esselstyn’s work via that research, and the rest is history. Meeting Dr. Esselstyn and Ann Crile Esselstyn was my turning point to better health.
I converted to plant based diet in one night!! Never looking back again. The first dish I made was a plant-based chili recipe that I adapted from PINTERST. Surprisingly, it was very good. It was my first oil-free meal, and it was a big hit!
I started to see results from my change in lifestyle within the first two weeks. All the angina completely stopped!! I have not had angina in almost two years and counting! I started to immediately to lose weight and my blood sugar reading started to go down immediately, as well. ( I was also severely diabetic.)
When I went back to my cardiologist two months later, my lipids were much lower and she took me off one of my blood pressure pills. In six months I started coming off my diabetes medication. Now, twenty-three months later, I have lost almost 60 lbs, come off two blood pressure medications. And more good news is that I came off all my diabetes medication just four months ago. I now have more energy than I know what to do.. And my chronic arthritic pain? Gone!
I would suggest for someone that is plunging into plant-based lifestyle is to try not to get overwhelmed, because it is a daunting task to change this much overnight. I would say to try and adapt some recipes that you love like chili and leave the meat out. Also, join one of the Facebook pages on plant based eating so you have a support system and that other people can give you ideas of what to eat. I also now have an addiction to low fat vegan cookbooks. So many great ideas. And also, just know that this too will get better!
Along the way, making contact with Dr. Esselstyn and Ann was one of the best things ever. When I called him the very first time, I left and message. And sure enough, he called me back to discuss my case and discover ways that I could benefit from attending his six-hour seminar. As they say, the rest is history.
Tricia is one of the featured speakers at Dr. Esselstyn’s monthly seminars. She shares her story with other patients and is a true inspiration.
We’re very proud of Tricia and her accomplishments. She is a valued resource for our patients, and we welcome her participation with opened arms.
Imaging at that time confirmed a 100% occlusion of the right carotid artery and a 27% blockage of the left carotid artery as well as further coronary artery disease progression necessitating bypass surgery which was performed not withstanding a 100% occluded right carotid artery. Despite optimal medical therapy and modest nutritional changes of decreasing sugar, fat, and eating less meat, the patient’s left carotid artery blockage had progressed by 2008 to 80-90% occlusion by ultra sound. By 2011 he was having daily angina and his physician indicated there was nothing further they could do for him. He felt his time was short.
During this time, Mercer’s daughter had found and read Dr. Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. She herself had experienced a heart attack at age 37, so they both became fully committed to whole foods, plant-based nutrition. Within one month, his angina completely disappeared and his erectile dysfunction resolved. After 4 months, he had lost 41 pounds to a body weight of 136 pounds which was the same weight at his wedding 53 years earlier.
In September of 2013, a repeat duplex ultrasound confirmed left carotid artery disease reversal from 80-90% in 2008 to 50-69%. Mercer states he no longer tires and in retirement he is physically active all day. He states: “I am so busy living now, I no longer think about dying.”
By age 43 he started experiencing chest pain. Angiography at a local hospital confirmed coronary artery disease and he required a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) with stent placement in May of 2003. He returned to the local hospital in August of 2005 with recurrent chest pain and he received another stent. In June of 2007, recurrent symptoms warranted two additional stents. In September of 2007, he was seen at the Cleveland Clinic with recurrent chest pain. He required two angioplasties to treat stent re-stenosis.
These recurrences were despite the standard lifestyle modifications, cardiac rehabilitation and usual cardiac medications (including the addition of glimepiride), achieving an LDL cholesterol of 60 mg/dl. By July of 2008, at age 47, he was having unstable angina necessitating a double coronary artery bypass graft surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. In November of 2009 he had recurrent chest pain for which he had stenting of his stenotic bypass graft and approximately one month later in December of 2009, at the same institution, his symptoms required two more stents for stent restenosis.
At this time, physicians informed Soteros and his wife that there was little else that could be done for him in view of his aggressive and progressive disease. He therefore, started on a regimen of multiple dietary supplements as recommended by a holistic medicine practitioner.
Nevertheless, on June 12, 2010 his three month experiment with holistic medicine failed and he underwent two more angioplasties for unstable angina.
On June 18, 2010, becoming interested more in nutrition, he attended our 5.5 hour intensive counseling seminar at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. He has since been fully adherent to whole foods, plant-based nutrition beyond four years. He has had no further chest pain. Four months following initiating whole foods, plant-based nutrition he was declared no longer diabetic (with a hemoglobin A1c of 5.1 he was no longer taking any diabetic medications) and erectile dysfunction resolved. He maintains a normal, full work schedule and is empowered with the realization that his nutrition has vanquished his illness.
At that time he weighed 192 pounds and had hyperlipidemia and hypertension, both controlled by medications. He was given the standard diet prescription, and was started on niacin. On a return visit he had lost 25 pounds. He returned to an affiliate hospital of the Cleveland Clinic on March 15, 2006 having had a cerebral vascular accident for which he underwent a right carotid endarterectomy on March 19, 2006. At the time of that procedure he sustained a right retinal infarct. A right carotid duplex on May of 2006, two months after the procedure, confirmed the right carotid artery was now occluded. On August 27, 2007 a repeat duplex of the remaining patent left carotid artery confirmed increasing stenosis. Also, this time he was diagnosed with leg claudication. Further evaluation on February 28, 2008 confirmed progression of carotid stenosis from 20-39% in 2006 to 60-79% in 2008.
By March 14, 2010 his claudication progressed to the point of necessitating an intervention. He required an endarterectomy of his left carotid artery on June 4, 2010 before his left leg bypass surgery. The left leg operation consisted of a vein graft from the left superficial femoral to the left posterior tibial artery and was performed on September 20, 2010. Within 48 hours the graft failed. Thombectomy of the failed graft was performed on September 23, 2010. A further evaluation of the leg graft on February 22, 2011 confirmed that it has thrombosed. At this time, exercise was recommended along with usual cardiovascular medications.
In March of 2011, McNamara attended a 5.5 hour intensive counseling seminar on whole foods, plant-based nutrition to halt and reverse cardiovascular disease at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Within four months his claudication was markedly improved, his blood pressure was normal and he had now lost an additional 15 pounds. Two years following his transition to plant-based nutrition, he is able to walk without discomfort or pain beyond 45 minutes. He has maintained his weight loss and his blood pressure and cholesterol remain normal with minimal medications. Though he is presently retired, he derives satisfaction as a motivational speaker at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute program for the arrest and reversal of cardiovascular disease.
When he came to this country in 1949 from China, Anthony Yen abandoned the diet with which he was raised and started eating American food. As a businessman who owns several overseas manufacturing plants, Yen ate the typical American businessman’s diet–“a lot of roast beef, chocolate mousse, fried chicken and pork chops.”
In his 50’s, this diet began to catch up with him. While dancing on New Year’s Eve with his wife, his chest tightened and he got very sweaty. Within the week, Yen learned he had experienced angina because five of the arteries to his heart were blocked.
In 1988, Yen had open-heart surgery to bypass the clogged arteries. However, he knew the operation was not a cure, and sought out Dr. Esseistyn’s experimental therapy–the combination of a low fat diet and cholesterol lowering drugs. As a result, he adopted a diet akin to that his parents ate in China, which he hopes will lend him their longevity. After all, his parents died at ages 95 and 98, with no evidence of heart disease.
When traveling overseas, Yen now carries 3 by 5 inch cards, on which are translations of his diet, just in case a waiter or waitress does not understand his order. As a result of the diet, Yen says, “I feel rejuvenated.” Not prone to exercise, Yen says his blood pressure is, at age 73, that of an athlete.
Evelyn Oswick suffered two heart attacks in her fifties. After an angioplasty and a triple bypass operation failed to keep her heart disease from returning, Oswick’s doctor told her there was nothing more he could do and that she ought to “go home and wait to die.”
Dr. Esselstyn had stopped by her room when Oswick was hospitalized after the surgery to suggest she would be a good candidate for his experiment. But when Oswick heard she would have to eliminate all but 10 percent of the fat from her diet, she told Esselstyn, “No way.”
Later Oswick reconsidered. “I realized I wasn’t ready to die,” she says. After talking it over with her husband, Oswick embarked on Dr. Esselstyn’s study, giving up her beloved “chocolate donuts, ice cream and beef livers.”
Yet, Oswick says, she has never looked back. Although Esselstyn told her she was the last person he expected to change her mind, Oswick has been with the program for 21 years. When she isn’t teaching public speaking and interpersonal skills at a university, she instructs business executives etiquette and speech making, and is even considering going to law school.
“Few Murphys lived beyond the age of 55,” says Murlan Murphy (the owner along with his sons of he company that manufactured Murphy’s Oil Soap), whose family has been decimated by a congenital problem disposing them to heart disease. At 88, he said. “I’ve never felt better.”
At 40, Murphy started jogging, five miles three times a week, to prevent the arterial disease which had left his father an invalid. But at 65, having paid no attention to his diet, Murphy found he would get exhausted after only a quarter mile. Murphy was diagnosed with heart disease and received an angioplasty.
Nevertheless, Murphy’s disease returned. Scheduled for open-heart surgery, he decided against it and opted to try Dr. Esselstyn’s approach. Within six months of maintaining a regimen of a plant-based diet and cholesterol-lowering drugs, he was jogging again at full strength. He did so until about ten years ago when at 78, he opted to start working out in the gym instead.
“Exercise alone would never have worked,” says Murphy. “The diet is what made the difference.”
In this 3 minute video, Dr. Conway discusses reversing his heart disease after attending Dr. Esselstyn’s seminar. Now he teaches this information to his own patients.
Watch a 6-minute excerpt from a presentation in which Prof. Peter Lewis talks about how he reversed his heart disease using Dr. Esselstyn’s program.
Actor Samuel L. Jackson has lost 40 pounds and credits Dr. Esselstyn’s diet with recovering his health. Read more…
President Clinton discusses how Dr. Esselstyn’s program was the key to overcoming his heart disease, with Wolf Blitzer on CNN (9 minutes)
Actress Michelle Pfeiffer Pfeiffer talks about adopting Dr. Esselstyn’s diet after watching Bill Clinton in “The Last Heart Attack” on CNN.