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Thu, March 21

Plant-based diet able to improve and enhance life, reverse chronic diseases

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When we look at the numbers, there is no doubt that our daily habits, including what we eat, how much we move, and whether or not we smoke, significantly impact our health. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 80 percent of deaths from coronary artery disease and 50 percent of deaths from stroke in the United States could be prevented with healthy lifestyle habits.

Remarkably, 70 percent of colon cancer and up to 90 percent type 2 diabetes might also be avoided with regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, smoking cessation, and consuming a diet featuring plenty of vegetables, moderate fruit, beans, and whole grain, and smaller portions (or none) of animal proteins and dairy products.

Yavapai Regional Medical Center PhysicanCare Dr. Deanna Price know the numbers and has a passion for helping patients adopt healthy diet and lifestyle habits.

As part of her work as a primary care physician, she practices lifestyle medicine, counseling patients on ways to start an exercise program, incorporate stress reduction practices into their daily lives and to stop smoking. Her true passion, though, is food because she has seen first-hand how quickly a plant-based diet can stop the progression, or even reverse, chronic disease.

In an interview with Rubin, Price said she has always been interested in treating disease with diet and lifestyle but three years ago found a direction after listening to a lecture titled, “A Paradigm Shift in the Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease” by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist.

In his first intervention in 1985, Esselstyn put 22 of his sickest patients on a plant-based diet. These were patients who could no longer be medically managed and had no hope of recovery. Four of the people who dropped out went on to have more cardiovascular events. The eighteen that stayed on the diet had no more events and were eventually symptom-free. In 2014, Esselstyn published a bigger study that followed 198 cardiac patients who had been counseled to follow a plant-based diet. The majority of patients (177 of them) were still following the diet at 3 years, and in that group, only one person suffered an adverse reaction, a stroke. In contrast to that group, 13 of the people who did not follow the plant-based diet suffered strokes, bypass surgery, stent placement and sudden cardiac death caused by the progression of their disease.

This study impressed Price such that she opted to share this plan with her patients. Rather than the tired recommend to “eat things in moderation,” which she said does not work to prevent or reverse disease, she opted to push dumping unhealthy foods and embracing healthy foods as part of a plant-based diet.

The health benefits of a plant-based diet are endless, and not just for the cardiovascular system. Eating this way improves blood sugar control, weight, blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, and more, she said.

“I am so passionate about this way of treating patients, that I will always spend time and approach the conversation at whatever level they are at. I will do whatever I can do to help them succeed. I have a handout I give them on the benefits of a plant-based diet, which includes meal ideas. There are also a lot of references in the handout if patients want to do more research on their own. Ideally, it is best to have a hands-on lifestyle program to help people really make lasting lifestyle change,” Price said.

She taught a five-week “Food for Life” program in San Diego that was developed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and provided plant-based cooking classes in the waiting room.

Price has numerous success stories, including a woman in her early 70s who suffered from hypertension. She started with the plant-based diet not certain she could sustain it, but wound up a passionate follower. Her blood pressure dropped so she no longer was in need of medication.

On a personal note, though, she is most pleased with her own father’s appreciation of the diet. He is obese with hypertension and diabetes. After spending two weeks with 100 percent plant-based meals in her home he lost 12 pounds, reduced his use of insulin and cut his blood pressure medication in half.

Price said she endorses cooking author Michael Pollan’s mantra: “Eat food, mostly plants, and not too much.” She, too, quoted Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

The YRMC Pendleton Wellness Center in Prescott hosts a ‘Reversing Heart Disease Support Group’ each month that explores diet and lifestyle strategies to stop the progression of heart disease. It is free and open to the public on the second Monday of each month from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call the center at 928-771-5794 for more information.

For more research on plant-based diets, visit the website: www.ornish.com.

This article was first published in Yavapai Regional Medical Center Health Connect 2.0.

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