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Readers blog: Irish Heart Foundation hasn’t told us the full story

The Irish Heart Foundation tells us that 10,000 people die each year from cardiovascular disease — mainly stroke and heart attacks — caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in our arteries. They tell those of us already diagnosed with the disease that standard treatment is an effective way of preventing a heart attack or stroke.

While lifestyle changes such as daily exercise and not smoking are certainly necessary, the drugs and a few dietary changes that make up standard treatment do not halt or reverse the disease. As a result, thousands of patients require invasive procedures such as stenting and bypass surgery, while many others suffer heart attacks, strokes and early death.

What the Irish Heart Foundation doesn’t tell us is that there is a better way. In the US, Dr Dean Ornish and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn Jr have been successfully using a plant-based, no-oil diet, along with lifestyle interventions to halt the progression of cardiovascular disease, reversing it in many cases, prevent heart attacks and strokes, relieve angina, normalise blood pressure and so on. Furthermore, this approach has no side-effects and improves the patient’s overall health. Their methods have been scientifically proven and the results published in medical journals.

For example, a study published in The Journal of Family Practice in 2014 led by Dr Esselstyn, which included 198 people with documented cardiovascular disease, found that 177 were able to stick to a plant-based, no oil diet, along with a few lifestyle changes for an average of almost four years. During that time, only one person had an event (a stroke) that was deemed a recurrence of the disease. In contrast, 13 of the 21 people who didn’t stick to the diet experienced a cardiovascular event. This life-saving treatment has been used for decades by Dr Esselstyn, Dr Ornish and also by Dr John McDougal, Dr Joel Fuhrman, Dr Neil Bernard and others.

As someone living with heart disease, I am grateful for the life-saving treatment cardiologists provide in emergency situations. However, when it comes to the day-to-day management of the disease I believe they, along with the Irish Heart Foundation, owe patients an explanation as to why they continue to recommend standard treatment while the clinically proven treatment plan of Dr Esselstyn is clearly more successful and is therefore a far better option for patients. I challenge them to either produce evidence discrediting the findings of Dr Esselstyn or start promoting the Esselstyn treatment plan to all heart disease patients as a matter of urgency.

Since adopting the Esselstyn Plan, I feel far less anxious about getting a heart attack or stroke, I take no Statins or Aspirin, my total cholesterol is 3.2, my blood pressure (which landed me in A&E twice) has been excellent, and I expect to be off medication within weeks, I’ve shed any excess fat I had and I feel great.

Tommy Roche

Maudlin St



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