My mother was 86 when she passed, but for many years she did not live a healthy life. She suffered from angina, had numerous heart surgeries and carried around a bag full of medication. I ached for her all the years I saw her suffer. She followed her doctor’s advice and hoped to get better. My husband’s mother died when she was 34. He was only seven. Heart disease wreaks havoc on so many lives. This year 600,000 people will die from heart attacks. Fifteen- to 17-year-olds already have the beginning stages of heart disease while obese children as young as eight years old are showing damage. Fifty-year-olds who have been on a standard American diet most likely are on heart medication or doctors say they should be. There was talk of putting statins in our water to address heart disease.  It is a situation that is out of control.

Heart disease is our No. 1 cause of death. Yet, Caldwell Esselstyn, author of “How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease,” says that “Heart disease is a toothless paper tiger that never, ever need exist.” Caldwell Esselstyn practiced as a cardiologist in the Cleveland Clinic. In his many years of practice, he realized he was not helping people by performing heart surgeries and putting in stents. He was just prolonging heart disease. In his book, he explains how to prevent and reverse heart disease without medications, purely by diet: a diet with no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, no processed foods and no refined oils. You might ask, “Then what do I eat?” A diet that excludes all animal products, processed food and refined oils is called a Whole Food Plant Based Diet, and people are finding this way of eating amazingly enjoyable!

As some of you read in my article two weeks ago, I have been a Whole Food Plants Based eater for 11 years since a misdiagnosis turned my life around. I now teach others how to make a transition to a healthier way of eating. Since the workshops I began in the Mahopac Library in June of this year, over a dozen people have made a transition to a healthier lifestyle. Ron and his wife, Marilyn, thought they would give it a try for a week, never thinking this would be their lifestyle—after all, Ron was a hardcore meat eater. But shortly after, they realized how good the food was, that the meals were not just salads as they had thought. They learned about so many delicious ways food could be prepared in a whole food manner—cheese sauces, burgers, sauces, soups, and so many more fabulous recipes. And they began to feel great! Ron’s Lipitor was cut in half the last time he went to the doctor and he feels confident he will no longer need medication at the next office visit. Besides that, his cancer markers which had been fluctuating, have remained non existent since he has been on this diet. Marilyn’s diabetes has been under control. They are just a few of the people in the program who have discovered the wonders of a plant based diet.

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I am certified in plant based nutrition through T. Colin Campbell Nutrition Studies at eCornell. It is a program that requires six weeks of intense training in plant based nutrition. While doctors are very well equipped to handle disease, I am teaching how not to get disease in the first place through our food. The next free workshop will begin on Dec. 15 at the Mahopac Library. I invite you to come and see what this lifestyle has to offer you. I often hear, “When you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, you will do something.” Are you sick and tired?

Shanti Urreta is the author of “Dear World, See What I See,” speaker and health coach. Contact her at surreta@gmail.com or shantiurreta.com.