In January of 2011 at 37-years-old, I started to have migraine headaches. I had never experienced a migraine before and this one had been ongoing for two weeks. A feeling like my physical brain was squeezing inside my skull. I wrote down the effect and described it like, “a Sea Anemone contracting when you touched it underwater”. Then one morning while I was driving carpool, full packed with kids, my eyesight suddenly blacked out from the pressure in my head. I somehow pulled over the car and regained sight. It scared me.
I had developed other strange symptoms too that had me pretty worried. My blood pressure felt high. I never experienced high blood pressure before, but easy to tell because I had stopped wearing tight clothes over those weeks like jeans, bras, belts, elastic because the slightest pressure on my body felt like my circulation was cutting off and squeezing my head. Similar to squeezing a tube of toothpaste with your hand, but not removing the cap so all the pressure of the paste is pushing the top of the tube. That was me.
The weekend before my appointment I went on a girl’s trip and had my last warning sign. It was when my friends jumped into a hot tub to relax and I joined them. As I lowered into the pool the pressure from my chest to my head felt like it was going to explode. I got out and took a cold shower, but the water beating on my forehead hurt like needles. All of a sudden felt completely lethargic. I had to go to sleep. I told the girl’s I was going to take a nap. I crashed in bed for 4 hours of a deep deep sleep feeling like a cinder block in a cushion.
I went to have my MRI that week and thank goodness nothing resulted. I went to my regular practitioner and was tested for everything on the planet. Also an extra screening for the possibility of cancer. Results were healthy except for the fact that my blood pressure was definitely very high. The doctor asked about my family history. He zeroed in on the fact that my dad’s side of the family carried a strong history of heart attacks. He schedule a heart scan, EKG and nuclear stress test.
I passed all the other tests like the stress test and EKG which meant I wasn’t a candidate for immediate action. The cardiologist gave me a prescription for Prevastatin (my new statin drug) that would stabilize my blood pressure and lower my cholesterol (currently at 204). She told me that since I was skinny and I looked healthy I was not to worry. My dad was skinny.
I felt like the cardiologist left me hanging with no action plan. Just a “wait until you have a heart attack then we can take action” plan. Remember my family doesn’t have heart attacks, they have sudden cardiac arrest. I didn’t like the doctor’s orders. My immediate reaction was to read, read, read and educate myself. Bury my heavy head in all the latest studies and knowledge.
The game changer from this point was when I dragged my friends to see the documentary Forks Over Knives. A world renown Cardiologist, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, and scientist, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, revealing their latest studies on heart disease, cancer, diabetes and diet. Caldwell Esselstyn, was President of Staff and Board of Members at the Cleveland Clinic and organized the first ever National Conference of the Elimination of Coronary Artery Disease in 1997. Read his pedigree it is impressive! Now he is the director of the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. His extensive knowledge and his 20-year study revealed the following:
Here, Dr. Esselstyn convincingly argues that a plant-based, oil-free diet can not only prevent and stop the progression of heart disease, but also reverse its effects.
Check this out. Here is a before and after shot from Dr. Caldwell’s book of someone’s artery strangled by hardened plaque and heart disease. After 32 months of a plant-based diet (no medication), the artery breathes life again, full and healthy. The plaque may still be there but the artery wall has dilated and widened to allow for sufficient blood flow.
This picture is what impacted me the most. I decided to try the diet for results and not immediately go on the Prevastatin. 6 months later, my follow up blood test showed my cholesterol lowered from 204 to 160, my LDL went from 87 to 70, and my HDL from 90 to 77, triglycerides at 49. A major shift with no drugs. Funny enough my cardiologist said, “good, it looks like the Prevastatin is working”. I told her I hadn’t started taking it yet.
For 2 years now I have been following Dr. Esselstyn and Rip Esselstyn’s movement of eating a plant-based diet. I follow Rip Esselyetyn’s blog and online support community to get recipe ideas and motivation. Thanks Rip! I also take 10mg of Prevastatin at night just to fortify my chances of not having a “heart event”. So far so good I’m 2 years strong with hope that I’m carving a long life path to enjoy with my friends, family, husband and kids.
As an added benefit to the diet I’ve also noticed I can run better, my lungs feel clear, from having asthma since I was a kid. I don’t get allergies anymore from all the spring/fall pollen, I feel energized and I lost the last remaining 12lbs. of baby weight after 3 kids.
The consultant, Lisa, that reads my Berkeley Blood Tests to me every 6 months told me last August 2012 that I had “the blood work of an Olympic athlete”. I’d like to leave it at just that.
Thank you Rip Esselstyn, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Colin T Campbell for all your research, hard work and outreach.