A Day with Dr Esselstyn at the Cleveland Clinic – Notes from Carol Hagan

Here are Carol Hagan’s notes from her day at the Cleveland Clinic with Dr Esselstyn:

Dr. Esselstyn and his wife are the most kind and giving people.  Why do I say that?  Dr. Esselstyn contacts each of the patients in the session 10 days before the session to review their health history and to “get in touch with the nuances of what brings them here.”   He stated: “I believe the only way we can show our respect to patients is to treat them with integrity and invest our time in them.”  And I saw evidence of that in how he related to everyone.

What is so potent about seeing his message in person is that he takes a different tact than I saw from Dr. Neal Barnard in our Food for Life training.  By contrast, Dr. Barnard takes a
direct but softer approach because he doesn’t want to alienate any of the participants.  He wants to keep a crack in the door so they’ll walk through.  Dr. Barnard encourages people switching to whole-food plant-based eating to go, initially, with look-alikes until they can make the jump to full-on plant based nutrition. So you will see Dr. Barnard recommend veggie burgers, soy dogs,and some prepared health foods to get the process of change started in as gradual a manner as is required by the patient.   Dr. Esselstyn is by contrast fully committed to
his “Moderation Kills” stance.  (For details see: http://www.heartattackproof.com/moderation_kills.htm )  He wants you to jump into the deep end right away and eschew all oils, animal products, caffeine, and refined foods immediately.

Dr. Esselstyn really hits hard the point that each time you take in animal products, processed oils, salt and sugars that you are injuring your endothelium, (effectively the thin layer of cells on the wall of your blood vessels – see – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endothelium  ). He hit hard the idea that even if you eat healthy during the week and cheat on the weekends, that’s still 1/3 of the year that you’re accruing damage to your endothelium, creating sticky blood, exacerbating production of plaques and hastening rupturing plaques and foam cells. The statement he made was “instead of a major stroke, you’ll still have a stroke. Instead of early onset dementia you’ll have later onset dementia. Etc.” Point well taken.

Ann, his wife, is equally as forceful in her commitment when she teaches about cooking.

Here are some key points that Carol noted:

  • Eat 6 small servings of greens throughout each day (raw or cooked), every single day.
  • Water is drink of choice. He wasn’t big on a glass of wine now and then but he takes it on a case by case basis. Decaf coffee appears to be okay to drink.
  • Supplements – He says he is going to revise his manuscript in terms of supplements. He now advocates taking only B12 because if you are eating on this food plan you are getting your nutrients in the quantities that your body needs. Your body will extract it as it is needed.
  • HDL does not need to be as high as we had recently thought.  If you are eating healthfully your body will find its own set point on what a healthy HDL level is.
  • He does encourage vitamin D if you’re unable to get outside to get sun exposure.
  • Exercise on a daily basis is strongly encouraged.
  • 1 T flax or chia seeds daily for healthy omega fats.
  • Changes in nutrition can positively impact heart issues in as few as 10 days.

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